Skip to content

Forgot to add pictures!

July 10, 2010

Pebble in a Pond.

July 10, 2010

It’s been so long, I’ve been sitting here for 10 minutes not knowing how to begin.  This I’ll just start typing.

People are not gods.  We may strive to be ‘god like’- but all of us, doctors, lawyers, parents, friends, teachers, mechanics alike at all just people.  People who make mistakes.  People who always have a little immaturity hiding inside of them. (well, some have more than others :P).  Now, the setting of this video is Hebron, West Bank.  I assure you, it’s real!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuN_YZN2oTY

So where have you been over the last few days, you ask?  Good question because I’m not 100% sure.

It started in the Golan Heights- learned alot about the Israeli army and the Yom Kippur war.  Fun fact: the israeli army is by no means a conventional army.  On duty on any given day, something like 80% of the soldiers are between 18-21.  How does Israel win so many wars?  answer: they dont.  they’re kids with guns who like to dance to Kasha.  The Israeli army is set up in such a way that the only job given to the front line soldiers, in the event of an attack, is to ‘hold the fort’ for 24 hours until the reserves are called up.  Let me relay a quick story.  In 1973, Israeli society is still partying in the wake of the 6 day war in 1967, the economy is booming, and Israelis feel invincible.  the Arabs decide to attack on a cold morning in October catching Israeli by surprise.  This is despite the fact that Golda Meir was personally told about the impending attack, but that’s another story.  The Syrians attacked and conquered the entire Golan heights in a matter of days- essentially walking over the 18-21 year old front line soldiers, but for some reason… they stopped advancing.  My tour guide, Yariv, gave multiple explanations why they might have stopped but in essence, the state of Israel did not fall because of that crucial, Syrian tactical mistake.  eventually, the reserves got out of shul, beat the traffic, and got to their stations (where they were still the most disorganized army on record!).

There’s no place like home, There’s no place like home, There’s no place like home… and I end up in Greece?  I’ll take it.

I spent 7 days in Greece.  Beautiful, sometimes dangers, lots of history and no jelly fish Greece.  I saw all the usual sites in Athens, the acropolis, the jewish museum, acropolis museum.  they were nice.  the greek government is rebuilding the ancient acropolis and I couldn’t stop thinking what would happen in Israel if the israeli government started rebuilding the jewish temples.  Bear with me for a second, what if there were no Palestinian conflict, and the jewish government sanctioned a rebuilding of the physical structures of the temple.  what would you think?  indifference? whoa? tourist trap?  Made me go ‘whoa’.

i met up with 3 friends in Ios, later travelling them to Santorini, and Kos.  Ios is one big party on an island completely invaded by Australians.  Santorini is a beautiful island with what is arguably one of the most beautiful sunsets on the planet.  What did we do on Santorini?  I rented a motorcycle, climbed an active volcano, visited a red beach, a black beach, and climbed down 587 stairs from the city of Fiera to the port of Fiera.  587 stairs covered in damn, stinky, donkey crap!  it was only fitting that the one (not me) who suggested that we walk down to the port fall on the stairs. hehehe!

this next part of the story is an interesting tale weaving seemingly unrelated events together in a poetic and ‘whoa’ sort of way.  First, some background.

1)a few months ago, my auntee sandee mentioned that she would like to see the world from the perspective of a kayak.  I thought it was a cool idea- but moved on.  I was never infatuated with kayaks because I was never able to do a kayak roll successfully.

2) My itinerary was never to go to Kos.  In fact, me and my friend sam wanted to go to crete with the other 2 guys.  however, we didnt buy the ferry tickets in time, and the ferry workers went on strike for 24 hours.  The first ferry off the island was to Kos.

continuing on, Sam and I arrive in Kos hang out on the beach, go out at night (also, huge parties), and the next and final day we decide to spend at the beach.  With not much to do, I decide to rent an ocean kayak and go kayaking to the end of the bay at this peninsula like point.  Now, the guy renting the kayak told me not to pass a certain balloon.  I told him no, im going past it.  I wasnt going out deep where the ferries pass by, I just didnt want to do laps in a 200 meter-50 meter box.  Anyways, im kayaking up the beach and about 200 or so meters or so past this balloon I see a guy fall out of his dingy boat into the water.  heres the thing, he couldn’t swim.  Like any other human being on earth, i paddle right to this guy who wasnt more than 15 or so meters from me and about 50 or more meters from shore.  he was coughing when he grabbed onto the kayak.  Then, George from Romania and I paddled back to shore.    Now, this story is particularly interesting not just because of the way I coincidently arrived in Kos, but because on the ocean- sound doesn’t travel, especially, when one is in distress.  In every sense of the imagination, I stumbled into the exact right place at the exact right time.  kinda crazy, right!

This story reinforces a philosophy in life that I hold really deeply that I call the ‘Ripple Effect’.  it also goes by butterfly effect.  consider dropping a pebble into a pond and watching the ripples expand.  that one action causes so many other reactions.  It was truly magnificent being able to actually trace the steps of how I met George from Romania.

coming up in the coming weeks.  Justin learns to play soccer and secures a volunteer placement.  The leading candidate is to work in a small community working with teenagers sent by the courts or child/social services.  What does working with me?  Stay tuned!

2000 views… WOW!!!

June 19, 2010

3 and a half months and 2000 views on the blog.  NICE!!!  (has it really been that long already?)

Thanks for the support.  Thanks for the comments.

Lots of exciting posts planned for the next couple weeks.

Right now, I’m just seeing off a few friends from Tel Aviv.  Next week, Oranim takes us to the Golan Heights for 2 days and on Friday I leave for Greece!  Athens, Santorini, Ios, and Crete in 8 days!

Pictures to follow.

For the time being, don’t forget fathers day!  Happy Fathers Day (tomorrow), Dad!

Wrong Way Sharpe goes off the beaten path.

June 8, 2010

I like to hike.  I especially like challenging hikes… one’s where I get to climb cliffs and swing from trees (see Mission Impossible III meets Disney’s Tarzan).  More then hiking, I like to get lost.  Be it in my thoughts or surrounding, however, when I do get lost, I try very hard to minimize the probability that I may get shot.  Let me explain:

It started one morning,  when my friend Deb and I were supposed to go to the caves in Rosh Hanikra on the North West shores of Israel.  We missed the taxi ya da ya da ya da so instead we pull out Deb’s map of every bear path, in-grove, dried up river, and ant trail that Israel has to offer.  We choose to take a well traveled (but not popular, per say) path to a nearby town, called Tarshicha.  So, we begin by walking on the path to Kleel- which I have walked on many times already.  After walking for long enough to conclude that our path does not intersect with out chosen path we decide to turn left into a small clearing in the woods.  We walk 100 feet and come to a stone wall about 8-9 feet high.  We climb it.  I check the time and then continue walking.  This path is unmarked and is rarely if ever traveled.  We are walking on a dried up river bed which explains why the path is clear enough to walk though.  Green leafs shelter us from the hot sun for most of the hike and hundreds of rocks line our path so I have no hesitations about losing our way.  After walking and climbing for about 45 minutes or so, I notice that our path is getting much narrower, the trees are hanging lower, and the bugs are getting busier annoying us.  We also happen to stop at a particular point where the trees dont shelter us and Deb gets a phone call (which was reassuring because I knew that we had cell reception).  While shes talking, I notice a fence on the ground and a small path through the high grass leading upwards.  I take the path to investigate and I, surprisingly, come up to a dirt path with a few old Olive trees.  Odd!  I’m literally, off the map at this point, on the side of a mountain without a house or really any evidence of human life for as far as the eye can see.  Deb and I decide to sit under an olive tree and eat an apple and rehydrate.

At this point, I am a little hesitant.  Deb wants to continue upwards and on wards, I don’t know where we are, but I am intrigued.  What is one supposed to do?  I don’t want to stumble upon an arab or israeli and have to ask for help.  The language barrier and potential miscommunication both made me a bit nervous.  So, what did I do?  I made an Inukshuk to mark our path!!!  I felt comfortable enough exploring some more and WOW, I made the correct decision!!  we ended up 2 mountains away from Yechiam with a perfect view of the Yechiam fortress and the surrounding view.  I’ll won’t try to describe the view that we saw- I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  On a side note, while walking back, we had no idea where we actually ascended from the river bed and we stumbled upon our Inukshuk!  Sometimes, things work out.  Enjoy the pictures!!!!!!!

Conflict in Israel: What’s Happening Now.

June 1, 2010

Early yesterday morning, one of the elite Navy Combat Unity intercepted and boarded a Turkish boat full of humanitarian supplies bound for Gaza in International waters.  there were 5 other boats alongside that were not boarded.  In total, there were 500 or so protesters, most of them Turkish.  Without speculating on who attacked who first, these are the facts.  There are 19 dead Turkish Protesters (to be honest, I don’t know the nationalities of all the fatalities as 20 countries were represented on the boat, including a European MP).  I think between 3-5 Israel soldiers were also severely injured.  As of now, I don’t know how many protesters were injured or to what degrees the injuries sustained represent.

Loss of life is always disastrous.  Period.  Regardless of nationality.  19 families are no longer complete.  That in and of itself is a tragedy.

I urge you to read this Q and A from CNN.com in order to get the quick facts.  It is not long.

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/06/01/flotilla.questions/index.html?hpt=C2

Additionally, there are many YouTube videos documenting the actual fight.  I am posting a few videos that were released by the IDF and one that was taken by a passenger on the ship.  There are also videos that are posted by al-Jezeera, but truth be told, they make me sick.  One passenger gets hit with a paintball, and the reported panics for 10 seconds saying this man will die soon, then calms down, walks to the next area and speaks normally and calmly.  Show business, thats it.

Warning: These are violent videos.  Worst of all, they are real footage.  In the passenger’s video, you actually see and IDF soldier get stabbed with a knife (no blood or gore though).  With that being said, this is the IDF video.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYjkLUcbJWo

This is the passengers video it includes both IDF footage (in grey) and other footage in colour: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaiMjAULWn0

Questions to ponder: Were they warned?  Yes, they were. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6jDIQr59Sk&feature=related

Who attacked first?  Let’s see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLrX7fznVgI&feature=related Lets put it this way.  After warning the ship to alter it’s course, the Marines boarded the ship by helicopter.  Did the ‘ask’ permission to board the ship that was still in International waters.  I don’t think they asked.  I think they warned them, though (though not recorded in YouTube warning video).  Now, what you can see in this last ‘birds eye’ video is that as the first soldier dropped down, he was immediately attacked, thrown to the ground and later thrown off a 10-12 meter drop to the bottom deck.  The first soldiers boarded with Paintball guns.  the later soldiers boarded with live ammunition.  Back to the question, who struck first?  Answer: It may not be known definitively who threw the first punch, but one thing is for certain, the IDF did NOT board the boat to kill.  It was explained to me by at Lt. Colonol and Base Commander that the IDF soldiers were expecting passive resistance.  Not a riot and therefore brought paint ball guns.

The issue of International Waters is a tricky one.  the Lt. Colonol explained to me that if a vessel is on course to enter territorial waters and the host country has sufficient reason to believe that it is dangerous to its citizens, it may intercept the ship in international waters.  The majority of the global media does not share this opinion.

What were the protesters thinking and what were the Israeli’s thinking?  Tough one.  The protesters wanted to make a point and protest.  they were successful in this regard.  Israel appears to be the savage regime that holds seige it’s own inhabitants.  The UN claims that Gaza only receives a small portion of the aid and basic human needs that are required to sustain 1.5 million people.  80% of this 1.5 million rely on international aid on a daily basis and now Israel is rejecting 10-15 tonnes of aid?  Israel, is now under enormous pressure to bring down the siege and open the borders of Gaza to allow goods to move freely into the area which has been demonstrated to be the only the way to securely protect the citizens of Israel.  It is in this regard that Israel can monitor what is placed at the hands of one of the most volatile and violent populations within Israeli borders.

What was Israel thinking?  This was the top navel unit in the army.  they were ambushed.  why were they ambushed?  because they did not have sufficient intelligence on the vessel or the people in it to probably research and implement a strategic mission.  As a result, people died.  Why did soldiers drop down one by one from a helicopter?  Why not bring in a big boat, maneuver it in front of their boat at the international border and force it to change course in a passive aggressive way?  The army is bigger, stronger, and deadlier then anything these protesters could have brought.  It is up to the Israeli army to engage peacefully and without casualties.  At the same time as I mentioned earlier, safety of Israeli citizens is paramount and non-negotiable.  I respect the army made to engage and I think they made the right call.  As seen in the warning video, they could have used civilian channels and have monitored the distribution of their resources personally.  They chose not to.

What does this mean, politically?  Israel is in a big mess.  Cancelling a rescheduled meeting with Obama also does not help matters, especially when the US voted against Israel at the recent Anti-Proliferation Nuclear Summit promoting a nuclear free middle east.  Israel stood alone on that one.  Additionally, Turkey is a NATO country, just like Canada.  It is also Israel’s biggest ally in the immediate area.  Turkey is preparing another vessel to come to Gaza, and this time it will be accompanied by the Turkish Navy.  Act of War?  Act of Defense?  Once again, Iran is calling for the destruction of the Israeli regime, the majority of European countries are calling for investigations and threatening to impose sanctions on Israel.  All flights to and from Turkey have also been suspended as a precaution.  Additionally, 600 people are being detained in Israel, some have already been sent to prison, some have requested deportation, some of refused deportation, and many refuse to give identification.

What does this mean, personally for the everyday citizen?  The Lt. Coronal that I spoke to has been given an extensive list of streets and villages that he cannot pass through.  Cars with Israeli license plates are being pelted by rocks in arab villages, and I have been warned by people on the kibbutz as well as at the high school to stay away from certain areas including the arab owned supermarket that is 10 minutes away from the high school.  Previously, I did all my grocery shopping there.  Practically speaking, except for the grocery store, nothing changes.  I pay a little bit more attention to the news and when I go for a bike ride, i will stop a few hundred metres before I come to the Arab village of Tarshicha (which has AMAZING humos).  Rhianna will still preform in the next few weeks in Tel Aviv as well as all the other A-list concerts.  The situation and our immediate vicinity will be re-examined in a week.

Please pass this blog entry along to Jews and non- jews alike who may be interested or who have questions about this present conflict.  The truth is sometimes hard to decipher especially in a global media network.  With that being said, I welcome comments and questions.

Jerusalem, If I forget you…

May 23, 2010

I am sitting on a bench outside of the Jerusalem train terminal outside of the city. I. Am. Exhausted. How did I come to this state of exhaustion. Come journey with me through this weekend that was a classic Israeli weekend.

Thursday at 6:06pm: I am running for my life trying to catch the last non- stop bus from Naharyyia to J-ru. Key word is running- the train left as I was buying my ticket. Next train doesn’t leave for 30 minutes. Oh well. I wait around and see these other English speakers looking at the train map on the wall in a east-west fashion. I ask them if they’re going to j-ru. They are! What’s their story? They are studying at a non denominational yeshiva with my friend deb- who I was also going to meet. Did these guys know deb? Yes! One of them tried to sell deb to an Egyptian while they and other friends were touring Europe. Also, I was going to the same shabbat dinner as them the next night. Wow!
Thursday night: arrive in tel aviv. Decide not to transfer and go to j-ru but crash at Sams. We will for jru in the morning.
Friday morning: arise early and get ready to meet deb at this activist conference just north of Jerusalem but deb calls to say that she’s leaving early and to just meet her in the city. With lots of time to kill sam and I arrive in Jerusalem at 10ish in the morning.
Friday in Jerusalem: we decide to walk to the old city. We ask this young couple for directions on Hebrew. He laughs and says English is easier. They’re from NY. We walk 5ish km to the old city and walk around. We saw the wall, ate a falafel, went to the israeli shook- all the touristy stuff.
2pm. Dinner plans completely fall through so sam calls her distant cousins and they are more then happy to host us. The father is the CEO of ahava and the wife is cdn.
530: get to debs, shower change. I smell like poo!
700: arrive at SAMs cousins. Eat a wonderful dinner and leave at 1030ish. Deb texted us and told us to meet her at her dinner. The one we were supposed to go to. The address was 12a something st.
11pm ish. Arrive at the address. 12a something st. This is an appartment complex with six appartments. Deb didn’t tell us which one. So we start knocking on doors but noone is home anywhere and deb isn’t answering her phone.
1130: finally find deb. Turns out there are 3… That’s right 3 12a something st.
1132: walk into appartment and see the host is wearing all white clothes. He is a Kabbalist. He studies past lives. Oh… Interesting. My first though, honestly, was that I’m in no mood for magic tricks or voodoo spells. I was a skeptic. Anyways, he invites us in… He’s American and is one of the most welcoming hosts I have encountered. Laid back, relaxed. Not in a serious mood. One of the guests called him rabbi by accident. The host made the guest called him shmuck. Odd but ok.
1230: no more wine left And the deep stories come out. He was somewhere in the US and was called on for advice. A women had lost her 13 year old son in a tragic accident and could not cope. She locked herself in a closet for more the 20 days. Would not come out. Friends, doctors, family pleaded but to no use. This rabbi asked a few key questions about the boys tendencies and personality. Turns out he was an archetype talked about in the Kabbalah or another book. He told the rabbi what to say and she was out in two minutes. He didn’t tell us what he said just that ppl are put on this world to serve a purpose and that if we don’t fulfill this purpose we come back again and again. Apparently, there are instances that people can come back even after fulfilling their purpose and it’s usually for the specific benefit of someone and something. These people are already so close to god they feel gods presence when doing religious or good deeds. The host warned us about kids who have a bris but don’t cry or bar/bat mitzvah kids who get overly emotional and tear up just because of the prayers. They ‘feel’ god in a more powerful way then we do. This particular boy was Just that.
1am: WTF!!!! Time to leave and clear my head. Not to mention deb is passed out.
Saturday lunch: picnic in the park. No squirrels to chase. Just cats. I asked the name of the Kabbalist from the night before. I think I need to meet him one more time to hear his back story.
Saturday afternoon: walk around old city some more with friends who are in Israel for the week.
Later that afternoon: run into the nice couple who gave sam and I directions at the western wall. They invite me over for a shabbas meal next time i’m in Jerusalem. I accept!
Saturday night: walk 6.3 km- takes just over an hour to get to the train station 2 hours early with enough time to write this blog!
915pm: I ask a lady what time the gate opens she responds in Hebrew but without an israeli accent. She’s from Ireland and lives on a settlement in the west bank near Hebron. Whoa!! I ask her, “why do you choose to live in such a hostile environment with your kids?” she responds (paraphrasing): sometimes you need to put your faith in god because we can’t control everything.
Interesting response, no?

Video Blog: Take 1

May 17, 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxRLXs2bgn4

hope you enjoy it!!!!!!!