Saturday, September 14, 2013
Monday, July 22, 2013
A Moral Dilemma: Asylum Seekers
A: Welcome and support them in the hope that they will never be a victim again
B: Tell them you can’t help them, because someone else is also suffering on the other side of the world
C: Send them to the poorest guy in the street, and tell them to ask for help there.
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
Eitan Reuven Flescher
The first is that he was a wise person. We learn this from the first Book of Kings where it says:
|Reuven Flescher at the age of 15, Polishing Diamonds in Petach Tikva|
Starting a new life in Australia at the age of 29 with a wife and two young children was not an easy task. Both my parents worked incredibly hard to ensure that my brother and I were able to attend Mount Scopus for our entire education.
|Ittay's Brit Mila in 1978|
With that in mind, May you my two children Eitan Reuven and Nava Shulamit, be just like Ephraim and Menashe, siblings with a great love for one another, and with a strong Jewish identity that I pass on to you, that I inherited from my parents, stemming from our language, culture and history. May these gifts lead you to do all that you can to leave this world in a better place than it is now, at the time you have arrived.
Friday, January 06, 2012
How do you say Social Justice in Hebrew?
The seed for these protests began in June 2011 when Israeli film student Daphni Leef received a notice to vacate the apartment that she had rented in Tel Aviv for the previous three years. After several weeks of searching to no avail for a new apartment within reach of her financial situation, Leef discovered that the rental prices in the entire Tel Aviv metropolitan area had doubled in the previous five years. At the time, Daphni was working 14 hours a day on a reality TV show ironically named “Your house is worth more.” In realising that even a person like herself, from a 'good' family with an honest job could not afford to live in Gush Dan where rents had risen by 49% in the past 5 years (42% of Israelis live in the Gush Dan region), she started a Facebook group inviting anyone else in the same situation to join her in a tent on Habima Square on July 14. (see ).
These protests gradually grew larger until they peaked on the night of September 3rd where 460,000 Israelis marched for Social Justice. An opinion poll released by Channel 10 television showed that 88% of respondents said they supported the movement.
Daphni spoke of the idea in this TED Talk as being particularly significant in shaping her political philosophy. “You know, in the middle ages, in England, when you met a very poor person, that person would be described as an “unfortunate.” Literally, somebody who had not been blessed by fortune, an unfortunate. Nowadays, particularly in the United States, if you meet someone at the bottom of society, they may, unkindly, be described as a “loser.” There is a real difference between an unfortunate and a loser. And that shows 400 years of evolution in society, and our belief in who is responsible for our lives. It’s no longer the gods, it’s us. We’re in the driving seat. That’s exhilarating if you’re doing well, and very crushing if you’re not.” – Alain de Botton.
The demands of the protests were initially for the government to do something about housing prices. As more people joined their movement, they articulated further demands that were formed out of many dialogue circles and round tables.The round tables during the tent protests were conducted in a manner that is unlike any discussions I have ever had with Israelis. Inspired by the 15M movement which brought over 7 million Spaniards out to the streets in May 2011, they adopted and invented a number of unique hand signals in order facilitate up to 200 people being part of one discussion.These emoticons have now spread throughout the world through the occupy movement.
One of the best sessions I attended at Limmud was run by Daphni Leef and Barak Segal, where they broke with the traditional lecture style format and arranged all the chairs in the room into circles around ten. They then taught us the speaking legend:
Waiving your hands upwards – Agreeing
Waiving your hands downwards – Not agreeing
Crossing your hands – Veto (I will not participate in this initiative)
Rolling hands – Get on with it, I’m not getting any younger.
Raising your hand – I want to speak (the table instructor will note and write down)
Firing with Fingers – I have a brief comment – Only allowed with the permission of the speaker
Time out sign – Technical intervention
We then participated in a Round Table discussion which gave all involved a powerful taste of what direct democracy feels like. Under the rules of Round Table facilitation, all present must speak, which in itself is a big step forward from the far too passive approach many citizens around the world have towards their stake in democracy. Next, each person spoke to the person on their right for 5 minutes, after which their partner introduced them to the group. After this, each person turned to their left and shared an economic problem they had experienced. Topics that came up included the source of the London Riots, rises in student fees and the nature of capitalism. These problems were then shared back with the main circle, after which we again split into smaller groups to start researching solutions to each of these problems.
In the tent protest, the suggestions of these teams went on to become part of a detailed report by a committee of 60 economists led by Yossi Yonah, professor of education at Ben-Gurion University, and Avia Spivak, professor of economics at Ben-Gurion University and former deputy governor of the Bank of Israel. As opposed to the Trachtenberg Committee established by the government, the recommendations of the Spivak-Yonah Committee were very much by the people, for the people.The use of round tables has now spread throughout Israel through organisations such as Arvut.org and the Israel 2021.
Another one of my favourite presenters at Limmud was Ruth Calderon from Alma, the Secular Yeshiva in Tel-Aviv, who spoke movingly about the place of humanistic Jewish ideals in the slogans of the tent protestors. To see her point, compare the slogans of the many social justice campaigns around the world.
“Give me Liberty or Give me Death” – Patrick Henry, American Revolutionary War, 1775
“Libertie Egalitie Fraternitie” – French Revolution 1789
“We are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers” – M15 Protests in Spain
“Action for Australia” – GetUp (Australia)
“We Are the 99%” - Occupy Movement (Global)
Noting that the similarity between the concerns of these other social justice movements and the tent protestors, it was amazing to see the Israelis use decidedly Jewish language to make their point with slogans such as: “The nation demands social justice העם דורש צדק חברתי”, “We want justice, not charity רוצים צדק לא רוצים צדקה” and finally “ All of Israel are tents for one another,” a play on words from the famous Talmudic quote, “All of Israel are responsible for one another.” (BT Shavuot 39a).
In addition to these highly prophetic slogans that would seem for more at home in the mouths of Amos, Jeremiah or Isaiah than the streets of secular Tel-Aviv, Calderon spoke proudly of the many Talmud study sessions facilitated by Alma in between the tents and the Kabbalat Shabbat services held each Friday night.
In reflecting on the remarkable events of Summer 2011 in Israel, many have decried the protesters as being naive idealists in calling for a welfare state that Israel can’t afford, whose protest will not achieve anything until they can form a political party and win big in an election. But Daphni doesn’t see it this way. She sees the goal of this protest as not changing the government, because she knows that this is not a right- left issue. What she is trying to do is to make sure that the concerns of the protesters are at the core of every decision made in the Knesset, no matter which side is in power. Acknowledging that the change she is advocating for will take a generation, the protest movement has recently created a new non-parliamentary movement תנועה called ב' זה אוהל that will continue the struggle over the cost of living and the values of Israeli culture and democracy. The movement will form a non-profit company in which the public will be able to buy shares and which will act as a lobbying group for social affairs.
Together with a number of the first tent protestors, the movement will be headed up by Major (res) Tomer Bohadana, a company commander in the reserves, who was seriously wounded in the Summer of 2006, fighting in the Second Lebanon War. He was evacuated to Rambam hospital in Haifa, and then rushed from the helicopter on a stretcher, with a doctor pressing his neck so he would not bleed to death. Before losing consciousness he saw a group of television crews and photographers, and signalled V for victory with his hand. This became the symbol of the war.
ment, “The foundation of this movement is the understanding that being a citizen in a democracy is not a responsibility that ends with a ballot at election time. This movement will strive to bring about a public debate around the hot topics that were strengthened by Herzl’s response on the eve of the First Zionist Congress in Basel to those who criticised him by saying that “the Zionist movement is entirely a racket, no more!” Herzl replied angrily: “Yes of course! s is bustle. The whole of world history is nothing but tumult: tumult of new ideas advancing. ”
Echoing the words of Herzl, I fervently hope that the new ideas that are being advanced by this movement will be the saviour of Zionism. By combining the best Jewish humanistic ideals epitomised in the direct democracy of the round tables, combined with the ancient vision of the prophets for a more just society, these young Israelis are showing the world how one should say Social Justice in Hebrew.
Saturday, August 06, 2011
Stuff White People Like – The Melbourne Edition
Most of you have probably read the American Stuff White People Like blog by now and laughed about it at many dinner parties which have also been fundraisers for various causes. In writing this entry, please note that in describing the group of people below, ‘white’ is probably not the best choice of word in Melbourne and should probably be replaced with ‘inner city middle class.’ After you read through the list, give yourself a score out of 80 to determine how ‘white’ you really are.
10. Being Offended
11. ABC Radio National
12. Any event sponsored by The Wheeler Centre
14. Music Piracy
16. Dinner Parties
23. Op Shops
29. Cassette tapes
30. Coming to places on time
33. Leonard Cohen (I’m offering a prize for anyone who can spot a non-white person in the audience at his Hanging Rock concert)
35. Bicycles (especially the fixed gear variety which are the most authentic)
36. Toyota Prius
37. Apologies (especially the one by Kevin Rudd)
41. Self-deprecating humour
42. Arts Degrees (especially when they lead to writing PhD’s you can angst about at dinner parties)
43. The Age (with a special mention to the Good Weekend)
44. Indie Music
47. Collingwood Children’s Farm
49. Masterchef (Especially the Eco Challenge/Dalai Lama episodes)
50. Apple Products
52. Bragging about unique furniture you found in a hard rubbish collection
53. The Chaser
54. Acknowledging the Wurundjeri
58. Flash Mobs
59. St Kilda Night market
60. Kath and Kim (This entire show is made for the benefit of inner city people who wish to laugh at outer suburbs folk)
61. 80’s Nights
62. Asylum Seekers
66. Gifted Children
67. Astor Theatre Posters
68. John Safran
71. Barack Obama
72. Royal Weddings
73. The Dalai Lama
77. SBS Documentaries that validate your own view of the world
79. The UN
80. Giving themselves scores on lists (With thanks to Ben)
So, how white are you? My score was 65/80.
Samitha Mukhopadhyay writes that “SWPL is primarily a place for white people to chortle at the oddities of race and class and then congratulate themselves for having done so, thus neatly avoiding the need to delve any deeper. Or, conversely, they may like the blog because it allows them to disassociate themselves and laugh at those white yuppies. The core message is that it's OK to be rich and white, as long as you laugh about it. No further analysis required. It's a message that, unsurprisingly, rich, white people love to hear.” If that is true for you, stop reading here. But if you scored more than 60/80, the following statements may be true for you.
1. You are a confident person
The “right” kind of white people are supremely confident in their own superiority. Their self-esteem and sense of entitlement are rock solid. The right kind of white people believe that (1) all other human beings aspire to be just like them, and (2) they will always remain in power and able to secure and perpetuate their values.
2. You are a marketing agents dream
Due to their likes being so predictable, the right kind of white people are highly susceptible to greenwashing campaigns and purchasing anything that’s advertised in free indie music mags like X-Press to clothing advertised in the Good Weekend. Whites are also far more likely to support causes with accessories like expensive T-Shirts, wrist bracelets, and various coloured ribbons. Whites are also particularly susceptible to social cause marketing which sometime do far more damage than good.
3. You think poor people want what you have
Due to their colonial past, white people have enormous guilt towards people in the third world which they try to fix by assuming that if only the third world was whiter, they wouldn’t be in poverty. This leads to ridiculous Whites in Shining Armour aid projects like One million T-Shirts for Haiti or Socks for Japan. Good Intentions are not enough is an excellent blog which responds to these well-intentioned, yet stupid ideas. For example, the very trendy Tom’s Shoes company recently wrote the following in its advertising for the A Day without Shoes initiative (the video clip is one of the whitest pieces of marketing I have ever seen). “The great thing about an event like One Day Without Shoes is that it's so easy to participate. We've had some supporters go barefoot for 20 minutes and others have gone barefoot for months!” The clip made by good intentions in response to Tom’s Shoes is called “A Day without Dignity.”
4. You are possibly quite well off and have a great deal of spare time
One of the whitest functions on facebook is the “Like” button, in that it allows white people to demonstrate they are supporting the right kind of everything from humour to political positions. Bolstering your white credentials on facebook or in other places often takes a great deal of time, and may be quite expensive. And by the way, how many of you are reading this blog at work?
5. You are not unique
To quote Christian Lander “But a closer look reveals that from Austin to Australia, from L.A. to the U.K., indigenous white people are as different from one another as 1 percent rBGH-free milk is different from 2 percent.”
6. You are middle class
Christian Lander writes on the blog “It’s partially about race, but it’s fundamentally about class. It’s about a generation and class that values authenticity and credibility more than monetary wealth.”
7. You are the beneficiary of positive stereotypes
Though most ethnic stereotypes are negative, different racial groups also hold some positive stereotypes of white people. A 1972 study found that, in general, whites were stereotyped with positive traits and minority groups with negative traits. Positively, whites are stereotyped as intelligent, socially diverse, and generally non-dangerous and unlikely to commit crime. However, they are all considered racist, prejudiced, or biased and scared or uneasy around minorities.
8. Most Films and TV shows are often created with you in mind
Samitha Mukhopadhyay writes that “what makes Stuff White People Like special is that it describes relatively wealthy white Americans, and in doing so, recognizes that their particular culture has been mainstreamed and presented by Hollywood as the norm.”
Filmmakers know that due to white people having more spare time and disposable income, they are more likely to watch films. Below is just a small list of film themes that attract white people
*Car trips to wineries (Eg: Sideways, Road Trip)
* White boys trying to lose their virginity on campus (Eg: American Pie, The Social Network)
* Films about therapy (Analyse This, In treatment, Prime)
* Inspiring white people changing the world (Good Will Hunting, Erin Brockovich, Patch Adams, Dangerous Minds, The Power of One, Pay it Forward – Teachers LOVE these types of films)
* Films about white post-modern angst (When Harry Met Sally, Garden State, Juno, Rachel’s getting married, 500 days of summer, Up in the Air)
* Films about prejudice (Invictus, anything by Michael Moore)
9. You were raised to be middle class
From the moment you were born in a midwife led, doula assisted, drug free, home birth, it is quite likely that you were breastfeed, read to every night, and that your toys were made of organic materials and/or had the word “Baby Einstein” on them somewhere due to your inherent giftedness. If you get nothing else from this blog, next time you are having a discussion about what’s best for poor people, note that the reason you are not poor relates directly to the daily effects of white privilege.
10. You are the product of immense privilege
Matthew Miller writes, “Stuff White People Like is, to be blunt, something that very few people seem to get. It's not just an attack on hipsters, and it's certainly not racist, but rather, it's an attack on privilege. The 20 and 30-something upper-middle class kids Lander mocks benefit tremendously from their positions as children of the elite, and have created their own "culture" that reflects their pretensions by affirming their own uniqueness and artistic merit without requiring any real effort. It's also an attack on class, and repeatedly points out that in order to advance in a society controlled by the "right kind of white people," you have to parrot their views and affirm their (well-meaning, but sill patronizing) stereotypes, which is ironic considering how tolerant and open-minded they claim to be.”
I have spent several weeks trying to put together this blog post in manner that best articulates my thoughts on this complex issue of class in Australia. If you feel guilty or offended, that is not my intention. My purpose of posting it here is to add depth to the inevitable conversations I often have about SWPL on Sunday mornings in vegan cafes.
If this blog prompts discussions about
-how and why you donate money to various causes,
-why you buy the clothes you do,
-what motivates you to write certain things online, and
-what makes you happy
Then my purpose has been achieved.
Looking forward to the conversation.