I Am Losing a Beloved Friend to Alzheimer’s, Even as She Remains Very Much Alive.

I have a friend. She lives very far away, across an ocean and a continent, but once we lived in the same city, where a twenty-minute walk beneath ficus trees and cork oaks would bring us to each other’s doors. I’d reach her street, turn past the sprawling frangipani just outside her window, and gather a few of the flowers on my way in – white, waxy petals with a yellow burst at their heart, a fragrance that always brings Beryl to mind, wherever I find them.

It’s been 17 years since I lived in that city, but I’ve been back annually, sometimes more. Beryl and I always get together several times, because one visit would certainly not be enough. We have to have at least three meals, or cups of coffee. Three chances to start a conversation and actually see it through to its end.

We’ve discussed her coming here to Chicago, where I live now, but I’ve always known it wasn’t likely. It’s a big ocean and she’s never crossed it, mostly travelling instead to the English climes in which she was raised. Still, I carried a small hope, folded into a corner of my heart, a small hope that she would see my home, see my beautiful children in their natural habitat, come to walk with me under the trees that grow here, the oaks and the maples, alongside black-eyed-susans and prairie grass. I would have taken her to the lake, to show her just how big a lake can be, how like an ocean, with a continent on either side.

But she will not come. I know that now. She will never come.

I’ve never known how old Beryl is (she refused to tell anyone who dared ask), but I was once able to winkle out of her that she is “about” my mother’s age. Today, that places her in the eighty-year-old range. It may be that sixty is the new forty, but eighty? Eighty is pretty old.

Some eighty-year-olds, of course, are strong like ox; some, like my mother, are so busy running around on new hips that it can be hard to catch them on the phone. Some eighty-year-olds, on the other hand, are manifestly not strong like anything. Some eighty-year-olds have begun to lose the map of themselves, the narrative that once wound into a life starting to fray, or simply unwind.

Beryl was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s this month. Those who love her have seen it coming, but one always wants to believe that one is wrong. She was always a little scatterbrained, after all, always amused by her own incapacity to throw out old newspapers. They would pile in her room, as high as her nightstand, because she just knew she’d get to them someday.

All I know is that sometime in the spring of 2014, her emails – once full of exclamation points and demands that I visit soon – became vague, and when I finally rounded the frangipani tree a few months later, she was there – but not really.

Her edges were dulled, her certainties unspooled, her presence in her own home tentative and muddled, laughing when laughing didn’t make sense. I might not have noticed it if we’d met elsewhere for coffee, but I was there to spend the night. To talk until much too late, and then suffer her teasing me for sleeping in. Beryl never needed much sleep. She was always the friend you could call at midnight, because she’d be up working.

Once back in Chicago, I heard from her daughters that what I feared I’d seen was real: there was some kind of deterioration, some loss of capacity. I began to call Beryl more frequently, but I cannot say that it was easy to dial the phone, not knowing what I’d hear when she picked up.

In the intervening months, it has become more and more difficult to know just what to say, because no matter what I say, I often find that it’s suddenly become a foreign language – a thing – a thing that she once knew intimately, a thing about which she once had powerful opinions – a thing that means nothing to her now. About which she can remember nothing. Not least, the fact that she sat in her home, phone to ear, and talked to me just weeks ago, and just weeks before that.

On a recent Saturday, when Beryl recognized my voice on the line, she said my name in the way that she has always said my name, no matter where I was or how long it’d been since we last talked: “Emily!” with a little shout and a shiver of laughter – just: happy. Happy to know it was me.

And then: “Where are you?”

“Oh, in Chicago.”

“In Chicago? Why are you in Chicago?”

And there it was. I didn’t need the diagnosis, it was just a fact: Beryl has crossed some line, a line I cannot see, on what once felt like a distant horizon. She is farther from me than she has ever been, and the simple, sorrowful truth is that she will never turn back, she will never turn toward home. The harbor itself is gone.

I didn’t need the diagnosis but I sought it just the same, writing to her daughter immediately, and the answer came back: “This week… Alzheimer’s… we knew, but still, such a shock.”

Not very long ago, just a couple of years all told, while on my annual pilgrimage to that other place, I had an odd and slightly unsettling encounter with a beloved friend, a friend who Beryl also knows. I got in my rental car, drove in a bit of a daze, then pulled over and pulled out my phone.

This thing had happened, I told Beryl, and that thing had been said. It felt like it was Very Important, but I didn’t know what to do, or how to make sense of it.

Yes, it meant something, she said – but no, it doesn’t matter. What you need to do, Emily, is not worry about it. You need to let it go.

I want to repay her in kind for all the years of love that she has given me. I want to help her and support her and be there for her always. But the only thing I can give her now is something tiny, something vanishing, something so small that it will slip through her fingers almost before it’s arrived.

I can call. I can keep calling. I can chat about nothing and everything in a way that will entertain her a little, and fill a few minutes in her increasingly unmoored days. I can do this much more frequently, in the hope that hearing from me tomorrow will remind her that she heard from me today.

When last we spoke, I did a thing I almost never do, and told Beryl, twice, how much I love her; she, in turn, did a thing that she almost never does, and told me the same.

I will call her and tell her that I love her even as the days steal her mind, even though moments after we hang up, she may not know that I called. It’s the only way I have to love her now, until even that is taken from us, and my name is just another confusing set of sounds – and real love, true friendship, will call on me to say goodbye.

I have a friend. She lives very far away, and each day takes her farther from me. I will carry her love always; I wish I could wrap mine up with frangipani flowers and put it in her small hands, to hold forever.

Image credit: Flickr / CC

I wrote this essay in July 2015, and it ran on xoJane. In the meantime, xoJane has been shuttered, and the place is crawling with ads, and who knows how long the archives will remain available. So I’m posting it here. I don’t know how Beryl is doing now – it’s been some time since she’s been able to conduct a phone call.

Today’s Jerusalem: Neither eternal, nor undivided, nor holy.

I wrote the following for Haaretz (Israel’s newspaper of record) when I was still writing about Israel/Palestine. I decided to post it in full here, because it’s all still true and provides important context for what’s currently going on in Jerusalem. Comments are closed on this blog now, but you can always find me on Twitter.

Jerusalem Day, we’re told, celebrates the reunification of Israel’s eternal capital, symbolizing “the continued historical connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.” It’s a moment to remember that, as Prime Minister Netanyahu once said, “Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart.”

So we’re told, and so the vast majority of Jews in Israel and abroad believe. Jerusalem is our heart, our soul – a small, holy spot on the map around which everything else revolves. So we’re told.

Except that it’s a lie. “Jerusalem” – as currently constituted, featured on maps, and represented by Israel’s government – is not eternal. It is not undivided. And it is certainly not holy.

The geographic location to which Jewish hearts have turned for millennia is small, corresponding roughly to today’s Old City; the holy part – the area on which the Israelites were commanded to establish a resting place for the Divine Presence – is more modest still, consisting of the Temple Mount.

When we stand before the Western Wall, or orient ourselves toward it in worship, we’re weaving our prayers and longings with those of all Jews, reaching across miles and years and touching the core of that which holds us in community.

Zionism stems from that faith experience, but is not identical to it. Zionism is a modern idea, a nationalist movement which, like all nationalist movements, centers on a shared language, culture, and land. That’s why Uganda was nixed as an alternative – because the Jewish people’s shared land is anchored by our holy city.

Yet it simply cannot be argued (not honestly, at least) that the 21st century municipality that carries the name “Jerusalem” is that same place.

Jewish Jerusalem certainly has a history beyond the hamlet that originally encircled the Temple; some 15 square miles of Jewish neighborhoods were well established by 1948, largely west of the ancient walls. These neighborhoods existed alongside (and/or in tension with) a flourishing Palestinian Arab community; peripheral Palestinian villages to the north and east fell within Jerusalem’s orbit with ties that were financial, religious, and social. When Israel was established, these areas and the Old City (some two and a half square miles) were held by Jordan.

The 1967 “reunification” of the city included not just the annexation of our holy sites, however, nor even just non-Jewish Jerusalem, but also large swathes of the West Bank that were never considered part of the city by anyone, least of all residents. In all, this came to about 27 square miles.

In the ensuing decades, Palestinian-owned West Bank land has been ceaselessly expropriated for new Jewish neighborhoods (such as Ramot, Gilo, and Har Homa), blurring the Green Line almost beyond recognition; by 2008, Jerusalem was more than a hundred times larger than in Zionism’s early days, nearly three times bigger than in 1967.

When you find Jerusalem on today’s map, you’re not looking at an eternal entity. You’re looking at a very recent construct, created by politicians for political reasons.

And undivided? Well. Beyond the cultural, linguistic, and religious divides – beyond even the wildly disproportionate budgeting for Jewish and Palestinian residents – for several weeks this spring, well before the scandal of contaminated water effected the lives of Jewish residents, tens of thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites had no regular supply of water. None. For weeks. In Israel’s eternal, and undivided capital.

Which brings us, finally, to the word “holy.”

The sacred nature of the earth and stone imbued with centuries of our striving toward the Holy One Blessed Be He cannot be changed by any amount of political maneuvering or geographic gymnastics.

Yet to suggest that lines drawn and houses built in the last 50 years share that holiness because they’ve been given the same name is not unlike painting an orange red and calling it an apple. It’s an affront to common sense, and frankly an affront to our history.

Of far greater import, however, is the nature of what is sacred. Can open discrimination in housing and education be considered holy? What about a poverty rate north of 75 percent? How about allowing tens of thousands of people to live without water for weeks on end?

I’m a Zionist because I believe that, like all peoples, my people deserve a home. When I daven, I face mizraha, toward the root and branch of my people’s holiest longings. Any just resolution of our conflict with the Palestinians will have to include a mutual agreement to share the city revered by both peoples.

But please stop trying to tell me there’s anything holy about the political greed and engineered misery of modern-day Jerusalem. That’s a lie.

A reminder: Israel wasn’t kidnapped by the far right. It was handed over, by the vast Jewish middle.

This piece originally ran in The Forward

Recently, renowned Holocaust scholar Shaul Friedlander gave sharp expression to a feeling shared broadly by many Jews, in Israel and the Diaspora. “Zionism has been taken, kidnapped even, by the far right,” Friedlander said in an interview with Haaretz. And all around the world, these Jews shook their heads, and sighed. Yes, they thought, it has been.

I have enormous respect for Prof. Friedlander, but I’m afraid I have to disagree. Zionism wasn’t kidnapped, or even merely “taken,” by the far right. It was handed over, with barely a peep, by the vast middle.

Our Ze’ev Jabotinskys, Geula Cohens, and Meir Kahanes have always had a central role in Jewish nationalist thought, but the 21st century has seen their like rise to new prominence. Centrists, hard-core peaceniks, and leftists have watched grimly as Israel has drifted ever rightward since the second intifada. Every step toward peace seemed doomed from the outset, and Israel’s leadership took care to tell us that there just wasn’t anyone to talk to. More and more settlements were built, but again, Israel’s leadership always kindly clarified that these don’t stand in the way of peace, and really, what’s another road, another red roof?

Wars, incursions, bombings – all are sad, indeed, particularly when innocent Israelis are hurt or killed, but human rights abuses by the military? The IDF is the most moral army in the world, and anyone who says different is probably an anti-Semite. Or, if the source is a Jew, a self-hater. Or, if the source is an Israeli combat soldier, a self-hater and an embarrassment to the nation. Demagogues climbed to the top of Israel’s political ladder, gained government ministries, passed anti-democratic laws, and structured budgets to make Israel’s occupation permanent – and the vast middle has watched, and sighed. And written checks, and sent their kids on Birthright, and floated in the Dead Sea.

Because it’s easier. It’s easier to believe that ethnic anxiety is the only true form of Judaism. It’s easier to believe that boys who look like your boys must be nice boys. It’s easier to believe that the bad guys are always bad, that Israeli hi-tech is more important than Israeli soldiers invading people’s homes, and that everything will be…okay. Yeheye beseder! Because Israel is a miracle and we are blessed to be in a generation that doesn’t have to run from Nazis.

Of course, there have always been Jews, in Israel and the Diaspora, who have tried to raise the alarm. In September 1967, the Foreign Ministry’s own legal counsel, Theodor Meron, found that “civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” Israeli philosopher and moral giant Yeshayahu Leibowitz warned in 1968 that “a state ruling over a hostile population of one million people will necessarily become a [security] state, with all that this implies for education, freedom of speech and thought and democracy.” In 1973, American Jewish leader Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf called on Israel to hold talks with the PLO and pursue a two-state peace. They were ignored, shouted down, or shut out.

The intervening years have seen Jews like Amos Oz, Naomi Chazan, Shulamit Aloni, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Peter Beinart, Sara Benninga, Uri Savir, Avraham Burg, Jeff Halper, Yossi Beilin, and six former chiefs of Israel’s own secret service agency, as well as organizations like Peace Now, Yesh Gvul, Gush Shalom, Women in Black, Breaking the Silence, Ta’ayush, Combatants for Peace, the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum, the New Israel Fund, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, and J Street – along with all their supporters and dues payers and fellow travelers – all telling anyone who would listen that Israel was headed for disaster, that only a just and durable peace could save Israel from itself, that an ugly, angry, rejectionist ultra-nationalism was on the rise, and only we could stop it.

But mostly, we chose not to listen.

Rather than use our vaunted Jewish intelligence to question the very idea that any occupation could ever be enlightened; rather than mine the free press that flourishes in our democracies to seek the truth; rather than look the Palestinian people in the eye and see their pain – we have chosen to listen to those who make us feel good about ourselves. We turn the page when Hass or Beinart appear. We close our minds and our social halls to Breaking the Silence and J Street. We march in Israel Day parades and send emails about BDS and sing Hatikva.

And today Israel and the Zionist dream of a democratic, Jewish homeland hang by a thread. We are inches from a one-state “solution” predicated on the permanent, illegal, unjust and immoral subjugation of millions of people, one that will be soaked in blood (who knows better than Jews that the subjugated tend to rise up?), and leave in tatters the Jewish values we claim to hold so dear.

It’s profoundly easy, and deeply comforting, to think that Israeli politicians like Uri Ariel and Ayelet Shaked and American leaders like Sheldon Adelson and Mort Klein are the problem. That they have taken our dreams and roughed them up, and oy, what can we do?

But the simple truth is that these people – just like the settlers who set mosques alight and the soldiers who kick little boys – are doing what we have let them do.

That’s what silence does. That’s what willed and willfully instilled ignorance does. Those who don’t stand up against that which is wrong are partners in the outcome.

The right didn’t have to kidnap anything. The silent middle handed it over, with a nice shiny bow.

On hope, losing.

The Ten Stages of Losing Hope:

Stage One – You have hope, but wow. Things are bad.

Stage Two – You have hope, but sometimes you’re not sure why.

Stage Three – You refuse to give up hope. Despair is a luxury.

Stage Four – Your heart clings to hope even though your head tells your heart that it’s a fool, and with increasing frequency.

Stage Five – You believe that you have lost all hope, and then something terrible happens, and you lose a little bit more, which means you must have had some hope left to lose.

Stages Six, Seven, and Eight – Repeat Stage Five, each time with a smaller sliver of previously unsuspected residual hope.

Stage Nine – You genuinely have no hope left, but you continue to behave as though you do, because you believe that the performance of hope has value.

Stage Ten – You give up.

As regards Israel/Palestine, I reached Stage Ten in February. For that and other reasons, I’m going back to school next week to get a second Masters Degree, this one in Library and Information Science.

Political Debate in Israel Turns Ugly

I ran the following in Mashable this morning:

Political Debate in Israel Turns Ugly

Israel has long been known as a loud and boisterous democracy.

It is home to a large number of highly opinionated daily newspapers and satirists who could put Jon Stewart to shame. Opinions regarding the Jewish state judged verboten in the American Jewish community have happily been voiced within Israel itself.

Yet it’s becoming increasingly clear that Israel’s comfort with disagreement — or even political differences — is waning.

In mid-June, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped by Palestinian extremists, and almost immediately, crowds of ultra-nationalists began to march through city streets, shouting “Death to Arabs,” and many included the Jewish left in their threats with such chants as “Leftists to the gas chamber!”

There were also several recorded incidents of Jewish mobs attacking Arab-Israelis. And when the kidnap victims were found to have been murdered, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was brutally slain, apparently by three Israelis in retaliation.

Widely shared public horror in the face of the latter event briefly stemmed the tide of fury but, within days, Israel was at war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and Israeli Jewish public opinion rallied around the flag and against any who might disagree.

Protests by the political left — whether in support of the Arab-Israeli population or in opposition to the war — were met with threats and outright violence; in mid-July, the Arab-Israeli deputy mayor of Haifa was among those attacked. For their part, police often failed to intervene to stop the threats, or they disrupted anti-war protests and arrested the protesters themselves.

To read the rest, please click through to Mashable.

Do Palestinians have a right to self-defense?

I ran another piece in The Week this morning:

Israel has the right to defend itself. What about the Palestinians?

Early in Israel’s latest round of hostilities with Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement: “No country in the world [would] agree to suffer relentless missile attacks and infiltration attempts.” His words have since been repeated frequently, usually in support (qualified or un-) of Israel’s operation in Gaza.

There is an inarguable truth here: No country would sit idly by under such circumstances. Every state, and every citizen in those states, has a universally recognized right to self-defense.

But what — the question is almost never posed — of the stateless?

The Palestinian people are routinely expected to suffer precisely what Netanyahu describes as insufferable. They’re routinely expected to tolerate relentless attacks and infiltrations, and do nothing.

Let me be very clear: Hamas is not a defensive force. In its resistance to occupation, Hamas has used terrorism and rocket attacks on civilians; both tactics are not only despicable, but they’re also war crimes. When Hamas engages the Israeli military, it could be argued that such engagement is, at least, legitimate (armed force against armed force), but Hamas was not conceived as nor does it constitute a defensive force.

To read the rest, please go to The Week.

And a nice one about the girl, then-6.

Also stumbled upon, also made me happy. The girl in question turned 11 two weeks ago.


Ow! My heart!

circlesI was just snuggling with my daughter in her wee bed, and she had been quiet for a minute or two when she says to me: “How many people draw perfect circles?” (Only she still says “puh-fect suh-cles”).

I say “Oh, not many.”

“Yeah, that’s probably done by machines.”

“You know what honey, you really have to settle down now….”

“Can I just -?”

“One thing,” I say, my cheek against her forehead, my arms around her.

“You know those things that you trace where you make everything just puh-fect?”


“Does a machine make those things?”

“Yeah, a machine makes them.”

“I thought so. I knew a puh-son couldn’t make it like that.”

I grin and grin and pull her even closer, kiss her forehead, and say: “You are, just, figuring out the world…!”

And without missing a beat she says: “But I’m only just at the start of it. Because I’m six years old.”

A love letter to my boy, then-11.

I stumbled across the following this morning, and its mood is just so different from anything I’m getting to write lately — and it made me so happy — that I decided to re-up it. The boy in question will turn 15 next week. (And so far, the rough years have yet to appear, with either child. Fingers ever crossed).


And then I got sick.

I woke up this morning really pretty miserable with a cold, so I declared a sick day.

The boy, aged some 6 months, under a different blanket.

The boy, aged some 6 months, under a different blanket.

One of the beautiful things about being self-employed is that you don’t even have to call anyone. You just get under a blanket with a book, et voila! Sick day!

This one turned out to be a particularly nice one, though. It’s Winter Break for the girl and boy, but the girl was at her grandmother’s, the boy home with me. He and I sat on our massive sectional couch (never mock a sectional. NEVER. That thing is like the beating heart of our family. I love it more than I love our house), he under the blue blanket, me under the green, and we read. And occasionally chatted. I ordered him a pizza and me a sandwich; we ate lunch, reading and occasionally chatting. I picked up a little around the house (creating that very necessary I-wasn’t-a-complete-loser-today feeling), he was on his laptop some (yes, my 11 year old has his own laptop. Don’t you judge me!), he got me water when I asked him to, and brought my coffee cup back to the kitchen, and at one point looked at from his book and/or computer, smiled at me and said “This is fun!”

If I’ve ever heard more beautiful words, I don’t know what they might have been.

As the afternoon wore on, he asked to go to a friend’s house but said he wanted to be back in time to watch a movie with me before the husband/dad brought his sister home, so he did and we did. And then I discovered huge holes in the bottoms of his socks, so we ripped them to pieces while they were still on his feet. And he ran giggling to his dad in the kitchen: “Dad! Check out my new leg-warmers!”

I am crazy about my family. We have so much fun together, all four of us together as well as in our various duos and trios, and I can’t believe how lucky I am. Our plans for New Year’s Eve involve the four of us going out together, and I have to admit, I kind of feel like, well, why on earth would I plan a celebration without the kids? What fun would that be?

And yet, these days will pass. I mean, I know — I think I know — that we’ll always have fun together. Sure, there are bound to be a few rough years (starting any minute now, frankly), but I think we enjoy each other so genuinely that that fun will always carry through. If there are rough years, it’ll wait for us on the other side.

But it will be different. There will boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, and there will greater distance, more push, more pull. Our time will grow increasingly limited, and it will increasingly involve additional people. Our foursome — our magical, miraculous foursome, the unit that laughs itself silly over dinner, singing songs and telling jokes, the unit that can travel the world and have fun even in the face of travel disaster — our foursome will become something else.

And for a little while today, that knowledge made me sad.

But then I remembered, as my generous, kind-spirited pre-teen brought my cup to the kitchen, that he had once been a different boy, several different boys, all boys I didn’t want to lose. All boys I loved and wanted to hold on to (even during a couple of pretty rough toddler years) and never let go of.

But now he is this boy, and I suddenly realized, as he settled back in: I don’t know what boys, what men my son will become — but they will be awesome. It will be something different, something wonderful in its own way, something that I cannot see now, but which will be delightful, because they will be him.

Same-same, it goes without saying, for the girl.

So I guess we’ll be ok. I suppose the years of our spending New Year’s Eve together may be numbered, but whatever child I lose each time a birthday rolls around, so far, the child I have gained has been a new kind of terrific — each age with its blessings and its curses, each an adventure and a joy. Even the bad times. It’ll be ok.

If only all my sick days could be this good.

Israel, Palestine, Gaza War – how to help.

A few thoughts on how to help the people of Gaza, and how to help Palestinians and Israelis striving to achieve a life without conflict:

Contact your elected representatives and tell them that you hope they will call for, and actively support, an immediate ceasefire.

US Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) ran an op/ed in the Washington Post yesterday doing just that – the easiest thing would be to read it (excerpt below), then include in your email/tell the staffer who answers the phone that you agree with Rep. Ellison and hope your Senator/Rep will join him. They’ll know what you’re talking about, so it will serve as good short-hand. If you’re Jewish – mention itI cannot stress how important it is to stand up and be counted right now (and if you’re Jewish and heartbroken and horrified by this war, please know that you’re not alone – click here).

Click here for the US House contact page (enter your Zip Code to find your Rep); click here for the US Senate. Emails are good, but if you feel up to it, phone calls are better. I’ll be honest: You and I both know that most of your representatives will not do what you’re asking them to do — but it’s important that they know that there are people who want to see it done. This is how change starts.

  • There is no military solution to this conflict. The status quo brings only continued pain, suffering and war. Promoting economic development and social interaction in Gaza is in the long-term security interest of Israel and the rest of the region…. Ultimately, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be resolved with a final status agreement, and ending the violence and the blockade is a first step toward a permanent solution.” Rep. Keith Ellison

Speak up. Despite the difficulties in speaking up about this issue, despite how fraught it always seems to be and is especially right now – speak up. Do so politely, and with respect for the humanity on the other side (however so defined) but please: Speak up. The Western world, and the American Jewish community in particular, has maintained silence and thus ignorance for far too long. Please – the only way humanity has ever changed is when people started to talk about change.

Share what you know, about the facts (you can get more here) and about those who are struggling even now against the forces of war: People like the Palestinian-Israeli Bereaved Families Forum (people who have all lost loved ones to the violence but work together now toward peace); Combatants for Peace (former fighters from both sides now working together); Breaking the Silence (Israeli soldiers who give testimony from their own experiences about the ugly reality of military occupation); B’tselem (Israeli human rights org with Palestinian field workers in Gaza right now); Just Vision (“increasing the power and the legitimacy of Palestinians and Israelis working to end the occupation and resolve the conflict nonviolently”) — on and on. There are not enough people doing this kind of work, but it is a lie and a dishonor to all who are doing it to ignore their efforts.

Donate. If you have a little to spare, here are a couple of great places that could use the help:

  • UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) – UNRWA is currently housing 236,374 civilians in 86 UNRWA schools – an average of 2,750 per school (many of which have been targeted anyway). Several of their own workers have been killed in the violence. Click here for their donations page; and click here for their Twitter feed, which is a very good, quick way to get a sense of the challenge they’re currently facing.
  • Physicians for Human Rights (Israel) – The Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights; they’re working to get medical supplies into Gaza and have already brought in more than $200,000 worth — they’d like to bring in more. Click here for their donations page.



My work on the latest violence in Israel/Palestine.

In reverse-chronological order (not including the work I’ve done as a contract writer, because that’s not officially “mine”):

  1. Israel, Palestine, Gaza War – how to help.” – I put together a list of ideas (contact information, links, etc) for helping the people of Gaza, and supporting Israelis and Palestinians who are striving toward genuine peace. (Click here, or just go to the home page – as of Thurs 7/31/14, it’s on the top).
  2. “9 Years Later, Here We Go Again in Gaza” – Israel withdrew (“disengaged”) from Gaza in August 2005 – I argue that its behavior since (and during) the entire disengagement process has been an effort to make a two-state peace impossible, and is in no small part responsible for what we’re seeing on the ground now. There’s a short summary of that behavior, much of which the world appears to have forgotten. (The Forward; 7/30/14)
  3. “Gaza is Trigger for American Jews’ Tension and Dissonance on Israel” – “Anecdotally, in whispers and off-the-record comments, in sudden Facebook defriendings or empty chairs at services, Israel’s most recent wave of hostilities appears to be leading to increasing alienation for a number of American Jews, despite the call for solidarity.” (Haaretz; 7/29/14)
  4. “ADL Needs To Drop Thane Rosenbaum Right Now” – A response to the recommendations of a leading American-Jewish figure that Israel essentially embrace genocide in Gaza. “On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization… And you have wittingly made yourself targets.” (The Forward; 7/23/14)
  5. “Israel has only two choices: Eliminate the Palestinians or make peace” – In response to another fan of generalized annihilation, this one a member of Israel’s parliament, who suggested “All the military and infrastructural targets will be attacked with no consideration for ‘human shields’… Total siege on Gaza.” To which (among other things), I wrote: “In the effort to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these are the only choices Israel has ever really had: Annihilation or peace. All conflict management has ever done is draw out the pain. (The Week, 7/21/14)
  6. “May Gaza Victims’ Memories Be a Blessing” – “We read names. We say names out loud, and hold their souls on our breath. We record names with ink and carve them into stone…. When lives are lost, those left behind do what they can to ensure that the names – at least the names – are not forgotten…. Someone in Israel has taken it upon themselves to perform this sacred duty for people very recently dead, not in stone or ink, but spray paint; the letters are Hebrew, but the names are not.” (The Forward, 7/16/14)
  7. “Where’s Jewish Fury Over Tariq Abu Khdeir Beating?” – “I have no idea what Tariq Khdeir was doing on the day he was savagely beaten…. I saw a boy much like my own, battered like a side of beef. Though the video is silent, still I can hear Tariq’s cries of pain, and imagine the panic coursing through him, just before he blacked out from pain. Shame on those who refuse to see and hear. Shame on them.” (The Forward, 7/11/14)
  8. “Gaza vs. Israel: The never-ending rematch” – On the many, many wars that Israel has fought in Gaza — four in the last eight years. “If we’re trying to uncover a chain of discrete events leading to the seemingly permanent state of war between Israel and Gaza, the waters are muddy.” (Haaretz, 7/10/14)
  9. “Israel’s addiction to military force, its only response in times of crisis” – On Israel’s life-long tendency to use a military sledgehammer in response to every genuine problem — no matter the proven inefficacy of the sledgehammer in times past. (Haaretz, 6/26/14)
  10. Would Israelis Be Kidnapped If Not For Settlements?” – I forgot to post this one on the blog, so I’ll post the top here (The Forward, 6/19/14):

    On Monday the New York Times reported that the recent abduction of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank has raised a “hushed debate [within Israeli society] over the conduct of Jewish settlers.”

    While I think it’s fair to point out that Israel’s reactions to the kidnappings have been marked more by anger and prayer than debate (however hushed), the simple fact that any questions whatsoever have been posed in conversation with an American reporter is significant and reflects a broader shift in attitudes toward the settlement project.

    Earlier this month, Justice Minister (and one-time right-wing stalwart) Tzipi Livni was quite blunt: “It’s time to say things exactly as they are: The settlement enterprise is a security, economic and moral burden that is aimed at preventing us from ever coming to [a peace agreement].” Moreover, a recent study found that a growing majority of Israelis no longer support that enterprise.

    It’s important to note, however, that if the citizenry shares Livni’s general sense of disapproval, they do not appear to share her reasoning: 71% of those surveyed say settler violence against Israel’s military keeps them from “identifying with” their settler brethren; 59% say the settlements are bad for Israel’s relationship with the U.S…. In fact, while 52% support a full or partial withdrawal from occupied territory in the framework of an accord with the Palestinian Authority, 31% support full or partial annexation — where the difference lies between partial withdrawal and partial annexation is unclear.

    All of which is to say: …the average Israeli still doesn’t appear to understand that every problem raised by the settlements is a necessary outcome of their very existence. Click through to The Forward for the rest.

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