Going, going… gone

I bet I’m not the only one with the delusion that if I just disappeared, nobody would notice. It seemed neat that I could just move countries surreptitiously, and over time, people would figure it out. Yeah, right.Jesus

In this post, I tell you why I’m leaving Israel and answer your FAQs about that. I later go into some of the deeper spiritual, philosophical and political reasons underlying this life change. I will be starting a new blog, the Barefoot Gladiator, to follow my travels, so if you like this, you’ll want to follow The Barefoot Gladiator.

What happened?

“What happened?” is the question I get most often when people hear I am leaving Israel.

Nothing

Nothing happened, that is why I am leaving Israel.

I got to a point in my career where nothing happened, nothing was going to happen, and nothing was what I could expect for the rest of my life.

I’m working on three projects right now.

  • Gangly Sister, a company with the mission of transforming how girls are portrayed in the media. For that to succeed, I need to relocate to where there is a children’s media industry.
  • A non-profit, officially called the Voice of Humanity but which I have fondly called The Treason Project over the years. I have thought about it for a long time and it’s time to take action now.
  • Business consulting and marketing writing, which pays the bills and can be done anywhere the world.

The short story is that if I wanted to stay doing business consulting and writing for the rest of my life, I could stay where I am. But that’s not what I want.

Where are you going?

It feels stupid to say I don’t know, but I don’t know. I am going to land in Philadelphia and buy a car. I’m flying to Vegas for week to go to the Licensing Expo. I’m driving around the Northeast with my son for a few weeks visiting family.

Then I will do the next thing. Followups from the licensing show. Fundraising for the nonprofit. Central Europe is really nice. I dunno. I’ll have a computer, a phone and a car.

Invite me. I’ll probably come.

Digital Nomad. It’s a thing.

What about the kids?

Although theoretically, the father only puts in one cell and I had to build the babies inside me from nothing, he gets just as stuck as I do with the kids for the rest of his life. In our case, more stuck, because he’s a homebody and I don’t seem to stay put for very long.

26 years, can you believe it? I’ve been living in one country for 26 years, and in this city for almost 18 of them. For me, that’s a crazy long time to be in one place.

My country, Israel, was built by a bunch of loonies, many of them no older than my children, who picked themselves up, left their native lands, and moved here. My kids are old enough to be OK. My daughter has a few months before her draft date. She’s planning to travel but hasn’t figured out where. I figure that works out well with my plans. Either I can hang out with her or I can (gasp) give her my car and pray.

My son’s a little younger. He’ll be living with Dad. I guess ultimately the daughter will too. Don’t ask about the cat. Somehow Dad ended up with that too. It’s good to choose the right person to marry, and, given the divorce rate, sometimes better to know who makes a good former husband.

I don’t want to pretend that was a hard decision. It was neither hard nor easy, nor a decision. Leaving my children was the consequence of another decision.

We are all at the point in life where we can choose where we want to live. They are welcome to come and live with me, of course. But that’s not what they want to do.

I won’t pretend it’s easy, either. My children and I have great relationships. We love being together. I hope we’ll speak often. I don’t know how it will look.

Those are the FAQs

Most people are satisfied with those answers. As a friend pointed out to me, “I can be supportive of you because I’m not responsible for you. If you were my mother or my sister, I’d be concerned. But I’m your friend so it doesn’t really impact my life.”

That pretty much sums up life, doesn’t it: I love you and as long as you don’t do anything that impacts me directly, I am totally cool with it.

Vanilla. Choose.

Life simultaneously feels like you could choose anything and that you can only choose one thing.

What I mean is that I could, fundamentally, go anywhere in the world I want, learn anything, pursue any profession. At the same time, when I am listening to my body, my heart, and the signs in the universe, it seems there is always one obvious choice. I can do any of the other things, but if I don’t choose the obvious choice, things keep getting stuck and need a lot of fixing. When I do choose the obvious choice, things flow.

What does stuck look like? What does flow look like?

The little signs I’ve been on the wrong path have ranged from skin rashes to bad dates, but most of it focused around career and money.

Stuck looks like: screening 600 portfolios to find 1 artist for a comic book, only to have her quit after the first one and have to start over. It looks like getting to final stages of 5 job interviews but having the companies decided not to hire anyone. It looks like having tons of friends but spending every Friday night alone.

Flow looks like suddenly getting freelance work that exactly fits the bills you have to pay. It looks like the day after your friend cancels a trip to Vegas, another friend calls out of the blue and says they are coming. It looks like your friends calling to throw you a goodbye party and agreeing to paint your apartment with you in lieu of a party.

I try to be a rational businessperson, and to say those are just coincidences or that I’m responsible for how things did or didn’t flow at any given moment. But if I’m honest with myself, the world is full of things I don’t understand. Reading the spiritual signs that it’s time to move on is the best anyone can do.

I’m going to die. You are, too, BTW.

A few people in my life have told me I should not be chasing dreams but establishing myself as a consultant and saving so I can have a secure retirement.

After my secure retirement, presumably I will die.

No matter how I slice it, I will die. Parts of my life will be comfortable and parts of my life will be uncomfortable, and then I will die.

Whenever I get scared about the move I am making, I think about where I’m going, my destination. The destination is a hole in the ground.

When I think about that, it gives me the strength and courage to do anything I flipping want to do.

A lost generation

I’ve been looking around at who among my friends has pursued some higher mission. All of my friends, pretty much without exception, do work for higher causes. But who among them has devoted most or all of their career to making major changes.

Most of the people I can think of in that category are 15+ years older than me or 10+ years younger. (If your children are teenagers, you are approximately in my generation) I remember high school and college in the 80s, the Reagan years. I remember thinking that social activism was a good idea, but it didn’t produce anything. I remember thinking that being a journalist would be a way to make a difference, but it didn’t pay anything.

I look at the friends who have devoted their lives to a cause, in particular the ones 15+ years older than me, and I see it did produce something. People who created a chain of schools, a person who created a national organization for people with mental health disabilities, the people who created this country. During most of the time they were creating the thing, you saw nothing. It looked like they were doing nothing, but after 1o or 20 or 30 or 100 years, there was something indisputably there.

It seems to me that fewer people in my generation (if your children are teenagers, you are in the generation I am talking about) are devoting their lives to anything other than a regular corporate life. I don’t see many of them even in parliament or government or even as startup founders. Almost all of us are doing our contribution on a volunteer basis, on a small scale. This generation seems to be leading very little. Well, there’s the US Presidency, but that seems to be a bit of an exception.

It’s easy to feel too old to shift my entire career and life focus. It seems like a crazy deviation from everything my friends are doing. Fortunately, it’s easier to feel bored out of my skull with my career.

My friends have been incredibly supportive. As a generation, I think there was quite a bit of brainwashing we underwent about being realistic, making a good living, and the ineffectiveness of activism. I had to unbrainwash myself.

Does this country even have a future?

I don’t like to talk about this, but another reason I say I’m leaving, and not necessarily on a temporary basis, is because I think the country has no future. I’m admittedly a bit of a Cassandra, but stil

I’m a Zionist. It seems a silly thing to say. Only a Zionist would leave the United States and live in Israel for 26 years.

Four years ago, I was walking down the street with my 11-year-old son. He said “I love my country but I don’t think I will live here when I am big.” I jumped. I know this boy. He belongs here.

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” he says. “It’s just, they have drones. Soon the bombs will get to this part of the country.”

If an 11-year-old boy can see this in 2012, anyone can see it today. The entire region is so militarized. I’ve been involved in politics and in some form of the peace movement on and off for almost 20 years. More people seem to be getting involved, but with increasing levels of frustration, resignation and hopelessness. They say, we need to do this because there’s no choice, and it’s urgent. It’s desperate. I’ve only met one person with even a glimmer of hope in his eyes. He actually has a plan that could work, BTW (Itai Kohavi, in case you’re interested.).

I think almost everyone living here has their own reasons why they think the future of this country is in danger, one way or another. Some might think stupid peaceniks like me are ruining the place, some think the economy will tank, and others think ISIS will take over the world anyway.

Something fundamental needs to change, and it’s not at the level of an individual country anymore. It’s on the level of humanity, and how we organize our society. I’m working on that. I hope it will save my country, too. I mean, not exactly. I’m not sure the idea of nation-state will survive this level of reorganization, but I suppose what I mean is it will save the culture and the land.

 

 

 

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I am ashamed

I am ashamed.

“I hate that you say that whenever the Holocaust comes up,” she says.candle

I am ashamed.

“You shouldn’t say that.”

I shouldn’t say that. There were a lot of people who didn’t say things they shouldn’t say then. Weren’t there?

Then there were the people who did say what they shouldn’t have said. They didn’t fare so well.

Which one am I?

I’m ashamed, because most of the time I’m among those who didn’t speak.

Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Maybe it is easier not to say it, because then I can pretend I don’t know it. It makes it easier if I pretend, like we all pretend, that we don’t know.

But I know it. I know just what I am ashamed of.

“We should remember on this day. What, do you think we should forget?” she asks.

We remember, but we forgot why we should remember.

We should remember.

Why should we remember?

“We should remember so that it can never happen again.”

It’s happening again.

Have you noticed that it’s happening again?

“… so that we will never allow it to happen again.”

We are allowing it to happen again. We are doing worse. We are pretending it is not happening. We are pretending it is not our problem. We are pretending it is not our promise.

I am ashamed.

I am ashamed that in Congo, in Sudan, in Syria and in Myanmar, it is happening. I am ashamed that it is happening in Ethiopia, Somalia, Pakistan, in North Korea and in Afghanistan. I am ashamed that it took me all of 90 seconds to look up where the genocides in the world are happening today and they are happening in 9 countries.

I am ashamed that I don’t really care. Well, if I really cared, I would be ashamed. Maybe I don’t even care enough to be ashamed. Maybe if I think about it for more than 90 seconds and the problem is so big, I’m too small to even wrap my mind around it.

Let me start small. Let me start with the country that is supposed to remember, with Israel.

I am ashamed that my country has closed its borders to refugees from Sudan and Eritrea.

I am ashamed that we changed the law and that now we don’t call them refugees. We call them “Infiltrators.”

I saw a campaign poster in the January elections for parliament. It took full credit, it boasted, that it had succeeded in stopping infiltrators.

I am ashamed that my countrymen voted into power the party that is proud of its achievement of turning away refugees at the border. In every city a billboard. “We turn away refugees. Vote for us.” Not in those words. Because we changed the vocabulary, you see. I am ashamed.

We were once refugees.

It is Holocaust remembrance day.

We should remember.

Why should we remember?

So it won’t happen again.

I am ashamed that my country jails hundred and thousands of refugees, called infiltrators, with no right to legal representation, no name, no number, not even – not even – not even proper winter clothing for cold nights. Even in jail, the prisoners get clothes. Not these ones.

I am ashamed.

I am ashamed that at my country’s borders, my sons and sons of my neighbors sit and watch as the refugees reach the border and my soldiers, my sons, it is their job to watch and wait for the Egyptian soldiers to take the refugees away.

I am ashamed my soldiers are following orders. They are following orders to give the refugees some water and chat them up, and give them hope until the Egyptian soldiers come to get them, and I don’t know what the Egyptians will do with them.

Yes I do.

And they do.

And every. Single. One. Of those boys. Should recognize the phrase:

“I was only following orders.”

I am ashamed that I and my countrymen are not up in arms about this. At least one day a year. At least on this day. Holocaust remembrance day.

We should remember.

We were once slaves in Egypt.

We should remember.

We should be ashamed.

“You shouldn’t say ‘we’,” she says. “It’s wrong to generalize. You say it like you are blaming others.”

I am ashamed.

It is happening again.

I am allowing it to happen.

It is happening again.

I am doing nothing about it.

I am ashamed.

Confessions of a Revolution Addict

I remember when I said I would never go to a protest again. It was in 1986 or 1987.  I was a sophomore in college and I had the privilege of seeing police violence against my fellow students. It wasn’t even horrible violence.

You say you want a revolution?

You say you want a revolution?

It was enough violence for you to understand that seeing violence on TV does not prepare you for seeing violence in real  life. It was enough violence for me to say I would never go to a protest again.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t protest or take action. I just didn’t go to those gatherings called protests. Every now and again, though, I get sucked in. It’s like this insidious addiction. It’s a form of persistent and irrational belief. An insidious and irrational belief, that indeed, things can change. That indeed, those few crazies will make a difference somehow.

Tonight I went to a protest.

It wasn’t a big or loud protest and it wasn’t a violent protest. It was a weird protest, in fact, because these loonies are running for parliament.

Since when do revolutionaries run for parliament?

The funny thing is the protests look the same as ever. I strolled down the boulevard in Tel Aviv to see those same washed-out signs, long-haired stringy-bodied guys in ripped jeans, tables with printed papers, alternative band playing music, people sitting on the floor, and smoking. Smoking! In 2013, the revolutionaries are still sitting cross-legged in a circle and smoking tobacco. They’re still choosing slangy slogans with double entendre inappropriate for polite company.

It was fun. It was familiar. They used the R word a lot. (Revolution. Remember, that’s what this article is about.)

I thought about how far we have come. These revolutionaries are talking about breaking the bonds between big business and politicians, between money and the media, between capital and capitol. We weren’t talking about that 30 years ago. We were fighting to even have a nation. We’ve come a long way.

When I see these revolutionaries, I’m glad. I think of Abba Eben. I think of his wish that we would become a “normal” nation, like all the other nations.

We have become such a nation. Our economy is like those of our Western colleagues, with a growing gap between rich and poor. Our government has become layered with unnecessary spending that doesn’t result in better services for our citizens. Our educational system is failing us. We suffer from internal violence and drunk driving deaths more than wars or terrorism.

And we have those same revolutionaries as they have all over the world, protesting those same things, talking about social justice. We have the same protests. The same breed of people thinking that they will get together in our boulevards, our plazas, and ultimately our capitol city, and make a difference. We had a million of them out in the summer of 2012. A million. Our population is only 7 million. A million of us are angry enough to show up and protest, at least once.

“We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt,” they might say. “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check–a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind [our nation] of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” Yes, they might say that.

Martin Luther King

Happy Martin Luther King day, to the revolutionaries, and to all who have revolution in their heart if not in their feet or on our lips. Happy Election Day to all of us, and may us all vote with our hearts and not with our fears or even our logic.

Let us, the voters be so bold tomorrow as to remember that it is us, not the pollsters, who determine the outcome of our elections.

Godspeed to us all. Let freedom ring.

How Many Refugees Are There?

The government propaganda would have you believe that the refugee problem is this huge threat to our identity as a Jewish nation. The numbers don’t show that is the case at least not for now. I will devote at least one entire blog on “what will happen if we treat them well and they all come?” But that is not this entry. This is a short blog with just the current official government numbers.

  • 57,000 is the approximate number of refugees currently in Israel. The majority are Eritrean (35,900), with approximately 15,000 Sudanese.
  • 75,000 is the number of legal migrant workers. This includes construction and agricultural workers, mostly from the Far East. The government mandates these workers and takes a hefty tax on each one who is brought here.
  • 95,000 is the number of people who just outstayed their visas. These are people who are not refugees, who have passports, and who came here looking for work. This is a bit of a mixed bag, but to my understanding, mostly people from Eastern Europe. This blog series won’t touch on the traffic in women, but obviously, this category covers that situation as well.

So there you have it. Looking at the numbers, it would appear that the refugees aren’t our biggest problem, and that there is something else behind the scare tactics to demonize them.