When someone feels the need to look at you in that certain way, lower their voice, and say, "Let me tell you the truth...", don't you feel that you are about to witness an inversely proportional relationship between the truth and the words on their way to your ears?
That is the uneasy feeling I have on two issues that are running through my brain on this, the 15th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.
The first issue is one that has bugged me annually for the last fourteen years.
The first annual memorial demonstration was held on the first anniversary of the murder, in the square where it happened. I do not use the word "demonstration" without reason.
Yitzchak Rabin was a legend of Israel, a military man since before the founding of the state, the man responsible for the road to Jerusalem during the pre- and post- independence struggles. He was the Prime Minister of the country, the whole country, even those who did not see fit to help him get the job. The government he formed, the policies it promoted and the day to day running of the country it facilitated was, on the whole, for my good as they understood it. Following that line of reason, his murder was my loss, the turmoil that followed it affected me, the way society reacted and counter-reacted was something I suffered - therefore, should its remembrance not also be for me?
The traffic on the way to the square that night was horrific, even by Tel Aviv standards. I ended up walking the last mile or so, with the crowds of people growing more dense as I approached the main site. The graffiti underneath the stairwell next to which the shots were fired had been covered with perspex to protect them, the marking of the actual site had not yet been properly designed as it is today. The square itself was twice as crowded as it had been for the demonstration held that night.
So there I was, Jonny, the religious young Zionist, recently released from my service in a fighting unit of the IDF, studying at Bar Ilan University (a profile not entirely unlike that of the Bar Ilan University law student who wore a kippa and had recently been released from his service in a fighting unit of the IDF, who had pulled the trigger a year before). I came to join my fellow countrymen in remembrance of our collective tragedy. I came around the corner just as Yossi Beilin began his speech.
"Let me tell you the truth," he preached, "We don't blame all of the religious community, we don't even blame all of the students at Bar Ilan..."
In one foul swoop I had been labeled, branded, ostracized. I had no place there. I had no share in the commemoration of the most profound event that had happened in Israel since I had received my first blue passport.
This has not changed. For the next few years I would watch the broadcast of the memorial "concert" on channel 1 Israeli television , hoping that the speeches would be more of a call to unify than a vilification of half of the population of the country by a small group who had hijacked our national heritage. After a while I gave up. The day on which I remember Rabin, and contemplate the lessons that are to be learned, is the 3rd of Tishrei, the Fast of Gedaliya. I had no real appreciation of this fast until Rabin was killed - Gedalia was a Jew who administered the Jewish autonomy in the Land of Israel, and was killed by Jews who disapproved of his policies. Sounds familiar, no?
A couple of years before his assassination, a couple of students were arrested and tried for having passed out car stickers (Israel's most effective media for ideological expression) stating that Rabin must be killed. As part of their punishment, the court demanded that they write an official apology to Rabin.
This year the National Archives published some documents relating to Rabin and his murder. One of these was the letter that Rabin wrote in reply to these two.
It was a powerful letter, concise and moving. In his own, recognizable, way, Rabin officially condemned their actions. He wrote that on another, personal level he could understand the strength of conviction that would lead them to suggest such a course of action, but that he felt that taking such steps would negate the very strength of our being - the ability to tackle difficult issues in a manner that facilitated the very existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State.
The Declaration of Independence had stated it, Herzl had written about it, Jabotinsky had sworn by it - everybody knew that the fundamental principle of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State is the very core of our raison d'etre, the imperative guiding line of our society, the essential basis for our existence as Israel in this neighborhood of the world. It is obvious.
So why do we need to have it said?
Are we not sure? Do we need to hear it over and over? Could it be that it could be said and not meant?
Why is it so important to have the discussion about the wording of a pledge of allegiance at this point in time? Why does it matter? I mean, of course it matters, of course all citizens of the State should be loyal, but since when has reading a declaration changed the speaker's way of life? ...and what are we so afraid of?
In America (not normally my chosen icon of normalcy, but needs must) one can burn a flag as a student, not inhale, and still become president! Oh, I forgot to mention that a law pushed through quietly on the same day was one defining the damaging or destruction of the symbols of the state as a criminal act.
Do me a favour! Even my 4 year old can quote Thumper! "If you can't say not'n nice, don't say not'n at all!"
Why can we not keep sight of what is actually necessary? Should we not be seeking to disarm those who are actually out to break laws that cause actual damage? Why introduce a farcical dramatic act instead of actually leading the State to a place where it may actually inspire loyalty and pride among its citizens?
Have we so completely lost sight of our fundamental principles that we need them plastered in populistic slogans rather than serving as the wisdom that guides us?
Are we so short sighted that we can allow for cheap political tricks to undermine our sense of self protection and will to survive?
What the hell is wrong with us, and when are we going to learn?
Three years after the assassination of Rabin, the first time I felt able to write about it, I concluded by stating that I did not make Aliyah in order to live in the Israel of today - with all of the good that there is to say about it, the modern miracle of our survival, there are some aspects of our behaviour that are really nothing to write home about - I made Aliyah in the hope that others with the same belief in what we could be will join me, and together we can create the State of Israel of which we all can be proud.
I am still here. I still believe it can happen.
What are you waiting for? For the work to be done by someone else, or for it to be too late?
Come on, already!
Thursday, 4 November 2010
Thursday, 8 July 2010
Posted by JonnyC at 21:36
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Yair Lapid, a journalistic icon in my eyes, described a couple of weeks ago how we seem to be failing to attract the attention of even our own people to a true appreciation of our current paradigm, let alone that of the wider global community. He called us amateurs. The government are amateurs, our PR pros are amateurs, we are all amateurs.
- We need to seriously begin looking closer to home. The Israeli is getting richer (at least some of us are), as the American is struggling to retain their social status.
- We need to begin to broaden our base of support. Far fewer major funders are looking to invest so much in one place for a long period of time. We need to be spreading our risk and looking for more friends,giving less, with whom we may have to resign ourselves to sharing shorter relationships.
- We have to meet our prospective donors where they expect to be courted. Our truth, and our genuine belief in the righteousness of our cause must be replaced by an open invitation to facilitate the empowerment of a funding partner to realize their ideology by subcontracting to us activity in the field.
- We must be present, and regularly communicate, through the media channels, and in the language, that will maximize our impact and broaden our reach. Todays world communicates through social media, open code, free expression, self-explanatory soundbites that are commensurate with on-the-fly information overload and non-stop information communication. (This blog post, for example, would never fly!)
Posted by JonnyC at 18:59
Friday, 4 June 2010
Monday, 8 March 2010
My gut reaction to hearing the item... "Take the child away from the parents! How terrible is it that some people so neglect their children!"
Yesterday was my first day as Director of Marketing and Resource Development for Yeladim - The Council for the Child in Placement. I began my first day at the organisation with a tour of one of the hostels/homes in Tel Aviv for kids who have been removed by the authorities from homes in which they could not, or should not, be raised.
As an anecdote on the side, I remember little of the swimming lessons I received as a child, except for one, apparently outstanding, event - my father picking me up and throwing me into the water. This is how I felt at midday yesterday - drenched with the substance of the experience from which I had just emerged, a little overwhelmed, and enthused with a feeling of empowerment having seen how much can be done and the profound affect any effort invested can have.
To hear about the family, it turns out, may well draw out a quick instinctual reaction. Having seen the kids, I now realise how that well intentioned, almost Pavlovian, response may well be more self-righteous indignation than an effective solution.
There are 6,500 children and youth under the age of 18 in Israel who have been removed from their homes and who are living in state facilities. The system does try its best in most cases, but the needs greatly overshadow the available resources.
I look forward to seeing what can be done.
Oh, and the end of the story of the tiny wandering Jew: His mother had asked an older sibling to watch him for a minute whilst she took care of the baby. The sister saw the tot running after the skirt-tails of the mother, and assumed the child stayed with her. A small oversight, perhaps, but one that could so easily have ended tragically!
Info about Yeladim can be found here.
Monday, 1 March 2010
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
Posted by JonnyC at 09:29
Tuesday, 9 February 2010
No, no, don't worry, I don't mean a real divorce, at least not from my wife. (Could you actually imagine either one of us coping alone with 3 offspring??!?)
It has been said - and credit for this saying coming to my ears has been given to my wife - that leaving a place of work is like going through a divorce.
To be honest, no relationship (except for mine with my wife, of course ;-) ) is perfect. There are ups and downs, times when one partner invests or appreciates more than the other, times when one is required to support the other, times of shared joy or sadness, times of doubt and uncertainty. Through all of the good and the bad, reaching a decision to end it all is an incredibly large leap into the unknown.
Whether you are the dumper or the dumpee, and even if the eventual break-up was looming, the actual *rip* to RIP is shocking.
For years - 2 in this particular case - an ongoing process of intertwined growth has been weaving "me" into the fabric of the organization, and vice-versa, as friendships are made, experiences are shared, and more waking hours are spent in the (tzniusdik) bosom of the workplace than even at home with one's "real" family.
As in anyone's relationship with an extended family, particularly on a spouse's side, there are those with whom the connection is stronger, those with whom you would even share a beer outside the compulsory framework, and the annoying little cousin who just bugs the hell out of you but you can't hit them because your mother-in-law guards them like a jewel - so it is within the bounds of an 800-strong workforce (actually about the same size as my wife's family).
There are friendships that have been forged here that I hope will last for years, those that have been functionally pleasant, and others that I will do my best to quickly put behind me - but even those have been an integral part of my life for long enough to necessitate a mourning process...
..but there is no time!
As I recall, when one breaks up with a girl/boyfriend, obviously from a more meaningful relationship rather than a meaningless fling, there is a need to take stock. As the fable of the scarred heart describes well, if in a very schmaltzy manner, each encounter changes the very essence of our person. I am not the same Jonny as I was before working at Mayanei HaYeshua. My experiences here, and the atmosphere in which I have lived here, have altered the way in which I look at the world, and the way in which I react to it - some of this will wax and wane, but the baseline will have shifted from its place pre-MYMC.
As in the extreme example set by Jewish mourning ritual, the stages of grief and re-emergence into a new reality allow for a gradual understanding that you have suffered a life-changing loss, accepting that this situation is irreversible, and readjusting in order to be able to rejoin society having come to terms with the fact that you have no choice other than to re-find your place and happiness in this new paradigm. This process takes time. If the necessary breathing room is not facilitated, crisis is due to follow - rebound relationships, sudden realization, unrest and inability to return to an effective existence.
Unfortunately, in the separation from a place of employment, most of the time we are not afforded the luxury of proper closure.
This is not the first time I have changed job (stop laughing!!), but it may rank up in the top 3 most difficult separations I will have gone through.
Without a doubt the breakup that had the most profound effect upon me was the untimely end to my Shlichut. That my family had changed their life-plans in order to go and temporarily resettle in the frozen tundra of Western Canada only amplified the pain of having the ideological professional position of my dreams cut short by a budget cut caused by a political rift 6,000 miles away. The disappointment was overwhelming, and the loss of potential will be something that I will mourn for a long time to come.
The fairly cataclysmic end to my period as CEO of the World Union of Jewish Students is another wound that has left a painful and visible scar. At the turning-point of a process of organizational overhaul to be told by a new political leadership that your services are no longer required, and to spend the next three years in lawsuits just trying to get some of the salary and other payments that were illegally withheld from you, was a trauma that has definitely left me, and all of those around me whether directly or indirectly affected, with a "healthy" dose of PTSD.
The political maneuvering that led to the end of the WUJS upturn was a sad thing to see. I see quite clearly the fundamental flaws in the system of the organization that made such a happening possible. Although I am called a fool by some for the way I view the actions, I fully accept that it was the right of the new elected officials to do WHAT they did, but HOW they did it - criminal! Disgustingly criminal! (See: Of innocence, ignorance and downright cruelty) The phrase that sums up that period in my career is that of John Kenneth Galbraith: "Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups."
In stark contrast to that organization, and that behaviour, the phrase that sums up my time at Mayanei HaYeshua is the popular mantra: "The boss is not always right, but he is always the boss."
Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Center is not a place I would ever have imagined myself working, much less so growing to love.
As it happens, this 20-year-old, ultra-orthodox, 800 staff-strong hospital is an incredible place to have spent the last two years. The rich tradition of a warm, caring family atmosphere is given the sharp focus of groundbreaking forward-thinking halachik rulings on practical medical issues, and the vision of a hospital that may not solve the shortage of hospital beds soon to become apparent in central Israel, but it will do more that any other hospital capital project is doing today to improve the situation.
My "State of the Union" report on fundraising at MYMC I will post after I have actually taken my leave at the end of the month, but let it be said that I have never seen an organization with more potential, a more powerful cause, and more readiness for action than this... but...
"The boss is not always right, but he is always the boss."
I wish the next person to take the position luck - he'll need it. I will pass on all of the information I can, and will do my best to persuade others to accept him, in spite of the logical conclusion to his efforts. He, like me, will eventually understand that there is no way to make that damn horse drink! I didn't believe it when my predecessors warned me, and I am sure that all but the smartest of those who come will fall into the same trap of believing the impressive promises of support, cooperation and available resources.
When the time comes, and the management (I can't bring myself to type leadership) constellation changes, I will definitely be one of those most actively willing to jump back on the horse and realize the potential of this place.
But until that day comes...
As I mentioned, in the separation from a place of employment, most of the time we are not afforded the luxury of proper closure.
With the everpresent responsibility to provide for mortgage, education fees, bills and taxes... and food, time to go through a proper process of closure is never really an option.
Ah well, as they have been heard to say in the Israeli OCS: "This is what there is, and so we will succeed with only this".
I look forward to writing about the new place when the ink is dry, and this place is behind me, and may the move be free of personal "baggage", rebounds, and the like.
Posted by JonnyC at 11:47
Monday, 8 February 2010
Wow! Talk about new beginnings!
The obviously good things first...
Yarden Avia was born on Sunday, January 17th, in Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Center. Shlomit received the best treatment possible (and believe me that it makes a difference that they know who you are!). All are fine, and it is a great trade off: sleep for a tiny new person.
The new year really didn't make any impression whatsoever. It was a regular day at work, and almost went by totally unnoticed.
Strange, but I suppose Tisha B'Av doesn't affect most of China that much, either.
New Job? Now here's a juicy item. Let me get my head around it, and I'll tell the story.
Posted by JonnyC at 15:59