Come Visit Israel. Before It’s Gone.

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

You’re going to have to hurry.

By Bradley Burston

I have a nephew who’s never seen Israel. I have young cousins, and friends and children of friends, who have never been here, but who have long wanted to come visit.

I want them to come soon. Before it’s all gone.

The Israel I want them to see is dying by the day.

It’s the Israel I saw when I myself once came to visit. A place which had a calm but breathtaking belief in a better future. A place that still had a shot at just that. It was this Israel that convinced me to stay.

This is this Israel that this government, and this parliament, has decided, once and for all, to finish off, precept by democratic precept. As they see it, the sooner, the quieter, and the more permanently, the better.

My nephew is going to have to hurry.

I want him to see what’s left of a place of quietly extraordinary people who dreamed of decency and peace, who envisioned making a place in the world where both we and our immediate neighbors could live together: no longer hated, no longer hating.

It was a place where there was an overriding belief that democracy was sacred, that minority rights should be respected more and more, rather than less and ultimately not at all.

This was the place I came to so many years ago, unfamiliar with its rude clamor and its face-slap smells, the directness of its language and its unfamiliar concepts of personal space.

Foreign. It was a place that believed that affordable housing and quality health care and reasonable living costs and reliable employment should be available to the poor as well as the well-off, to the elderly and infirm and the pre-existing condition, to the Arab as well as the Jew.

I want my nephew to know that there was once a place that his great-grandparents, believers in social justice who had been anarchists in Bialystok and became anarchists in Boyle Heights, could take pride in.

I want him to see it before they kill it. Kill it with settlements. Kill it with privatization and Social Darwinism and the lie they call the free market. Shred by shred, what is good is being drained away, voted away, diluted away in secret, or torn away by force.

Every morning we wake to it. Dreading it. Every morning, a new abomination, an obscene policy proposal, a rabbinical outrage, new plans to expel Palestinians from homes in Jerusalem, new plans to drive Bedouin from homes in the Negev, new steps taken to insult the United States, new ways of threatening a free press, new permits to expand settlements, an endless stream of opaquely worded legislative assaults on democracy, from ravenous middle and back-bench politicians on the make.

Last week, as Israel marked the watershed of the assassination of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, I was thinking about the place this could have been. The Israel, for example, that was the promise of the Rabin government.

A government that related seriously to the needs of Israeli Arabs. A government that more than doubled the education budget for all Israeli children. A government that fostered construction of thousands of homes for young couples and families within Israel, that invested millions in depressed outlying towns rather than new settlements, that dramatically expanded ties with the Muslim world, and with developing nations.

I want my nephew to meet my heroes, the people who have made it through wars and tragedy and this government and who still believe in that Israel whose future is one of social justice and peace.

I want my nephew to know that most Israelis believe that settlements do little other than ruin their lives, stain their country, and block the way to peace.

I want my nephew to see that people here have let down their guard and have let the people in power run and ruin their lives. When scouts in the Book of Numbers called this a land that eats away at its inhabitants (13:32), they knew what they were talking about.

I want my nephew to meet my heroes, the people who still believe in the Israel that can endure. Not one big ghetto of a doomed settlement, but one modest jewel of a country. People who hope for good, people who see all people as deserving of respect, safety and freedom, are heroes. And, for the time being at least, they’re still here.

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Sexual Health Education Still Inadequate

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

TMO Editor’s Note:  The following is a very frank account of a woman’s experiences before her conversion to Islam.

By Karin Friedemann

sex_ed1There is a time in every girl’s life that she looks to her mother for guidance. That time may pass, so it’s important to capitalize upon this moment. When I was eleven, I asked my mother if I should save my virginity for marriage. She answered me with the standard answer of modern America, “I don’t care what you do, just don’t get pregnant.” This was very unfortunate because I had been reading religious literature aimed at teens advising them not to have sex. I was willing to consider it. I was eleven, and my mother threw me to the wolves.

By the time I was 15 I got my first STD, chlamydia. When I was 19, I contracted HPV and herpes that took me years to overcome. Although youths in school are warned about deadly diseases like AIDS, nobody actually mentions how many bacteria, yeasts and fungi, or viruses are spread around through sexual intercourse every time. That point needs to be stressed: every time you have sex, you expose yourself to someone else’s bacteria, fungi and viruses, which are always there even if not to the point of causing immediate disease symptoms.

I think the reason I didn’t use condoms as often as I should have was because of my deep down conservative values. Even at 15, I truly wanted a child. I wanted someone to love me and take care of me so that I could have a child. In some countries I could have been married but that was not my fate.

All I can say now in my comfortable middle age is that it doesn’t matter if you are 20 or 40. Even a brief stray into the realm of casual dating could cause you to become infected with a disease. That disease could take you months or years to overcome through lifestyle changes and diet and prayer.

Do not underestimate the value of your chastity. Marriage is a hard road, but there is no comfort and security in casual dating. Marriage might cost you thousands in a divorce, but that is better than ten years of searing pain in your genitals. What people don’t understand is that disease is almost guaranteed when you have sex with a non-chaste person. 35% of Americans have some form of herpes. 80% have been exposed to HPV, which can lead to cancer. Even condoms can cause yeast infections. Vaginal strep infections are as common as step throat, but the bacteria can spread into the uterus and beyond.

So what do we do if we have already messed up and now we are facing the consequences? We invited poisoned people into our lives and we invited these diseases to take root inside our bodies. We have to take responsibility for that, and then we need to ask the Lord for forgiveness so that we can forgive ourselves, because disease flourishes in an environment of unresolved conflict.

We were given these challenges to DARE us to jump-start our lives and immune systems. I think when we become depressed or we hold anger inside we can get sick because people who should have been there for us were not. Even way before we noticed it like when a crisis came up. But nobody stopped us from loving ourselves but our own damaged belief systems especially the outdated belief that we need someone else to take care of us other than Allah.

For a newborn child, being loved is the same as life. If a newborn child were abandoned, he or she would die. It is totally natural for our bodies to associate lack of loving affection with impending death. As adults we have to stop waiting for affection if it is not forthcoming. That state of waiting will kill us. We are not helpless. It is just our baby self that is helpless. Even though we may have been abandoned, we would never abandon our child. And yet, we may still need help to care for our inner child. Imagine if you found a starved, abandoned baby. You would call someone.

As parents, in addition to giving compassionate advice, the best thing we can do to protect our children from viruses, bacteria and fungi however contracted is to make sure our family eats well. It can be hard to convince a teenager to eat anything at all, given society’s emphasis on calorie counting. However, the best we can do is to help our children associate food with good feelings and warm memories of togetherness. Eating disorders resulting in life long nutritional deficits that lower the immune system can be traced back to unhealthy emotions at the family dinner table, or the lack of any family dinner. Ultimately, a person’s ability to fight disease rests on his past history of healthy eating habits and a deep reservoir of love to draw upon in times of need.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer.

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