Perspective

My last post was on New Year’s Day, a symbolic day of fresh starts and hope. I wrote about fractals and taking one step at a time as I looked forward to marching into the new year with energy and focus. On my first day at PT,  I graduated from my knee bike to using a walker. My ankle swelled a bit and I went into worry mode. Then we had the almost WWIII incident. Anger and fear became my state of mind. Next an impending ice storm was predicted in my area. I’m very self reliant when both ankles are working but I wondered how I  would  bring in wood if the power went out.  The weather report proved to be false. But then this weekend a new storm, Jacob, was touted as  devastating with more snow and high winds. I prepared again for a power outage; solar lantern handy, homemade apple scones ready to be eaten in the dark, bathtub filled for flushing, and my gas camp stove ready for morning coffee.  Jacob ended up  being a whimper.

My ankle is now doing great, so far no WWIII, and  two storms proved to be weaker than expected. But something happened to me in those 18 days.  My perspective changed.  It was assaulted by a creature that slithered like a snake from across the road, traveled across the snow covered asphalt and invaded my house by burrowing underground into my basement and up into my home office. It was high speed internet allowing me to stream. I now have access to all the news and every viewpoint that youtube has to offer. But in my hunger for political, wartime, and electrical outage updates, I lost myself.  My brain underwent some rewiring as I desperately tried to figure out what was happening in the world. And as a result, I stopped wanting to write.

 

For the last 18 days, the world went on without me, things were not in my control but instead of calling up my strength, I surrendered to what turned out to be the information propaganda offered to me at $44.99 a month, no contract needed. As I sloshed through it, a lot of of it changed and became untrue. It was very intense stuff offered from many viewpoints. There was so much going on that many times my screen was split in two. Sometimes six heads in little boxes would chatter on the news screen to punch their network points even harder into my head. As I looked deeper for the truth on obscure youtube sites, I found many things did not add up or were lies. I guess it didn’t matter because like the weather what was once solid fact became something else as the days went on. This faulty information was seductive, in my emotional state I had an unstoppable hunger to cure the anxiety that was being fed by the unknown and uncontrollable future.

What are we doing to ourselves? The ancient philosophers pondered, “What is truth?” In their old fashion way, I think they had it a lot easier. Presently we are being manipulated with all sorts of technology. With rapid fire images in commercials and ads, we are convinced to buy and consume things we don’t need and can’t afford. And by working on our fears, those in the information business have made us angry, hateful, and frantic. Our petty jabs and arguments are dividing us. The things that concern us all in this country (infrastructure, healthcare, cost of prescription drugs, education, environmental challenges, etc.,etc.) are being ignored and nothing is getting done. Unfortunately, we share a common destiny and will eventually have to face the consequences of our inability to work together.

I getting myself back, reducing my digital information intake, looking closely at reality, silently reflecting, and writing again. There is a force out there that is strong and ugly. I’m going to do my best to keep it out of my mind.

Copyright 2020 @theautonomoustraveler.com All rights reserved.

Israel-A Kibbutz (not what I expected)

I’m from Upstate New York, way up state near the Canadian border. During my life in a rural area dotted with orchards and dairy farms, I never got to know many Jewish people. Somewhere, somehow I had heard the word “kibbutz”, maybe on TV, maybe in school. I grew up in a kind of diversity vacuum, where a Mayberry and “Leave it to Beaver” existence were the standard norm. Perceptions were clearly defined and rigidly maintained.

In my mind, a kibbutz was a farm where people came to work and plant trees. I don’t know where the idea of the trees came from but I had a very strong image of them. I knew that the kibbutz was unique to Israel and I deduced it must be must be warm there because I think I had seen pictures of everyone dressed the same in shorts

As I sat on the tour bus in November anticipating my stay at a kibbutz , my know-it-all teacher mentality kicked in and I wondered how I would react to the very vivid “reality” in my mind. Would I have to wear shorts? Feed some chickens? Plant a tree?

The concept and the necessity of The Kibbutz was started in 1903 as Russian Jewish immigrants flooded into Israel. They were communes meant to be an ideal utopia where people shared work, money, and childcare in order to create a better life for all. In its earlier history the Kibbutz members could own no private property or possessions. The concepts of social equality and gender equality started back then are still intact today.

What a surprise I had when we arrived at the kibbutz and it was a resort hotel.

The economy of the original kibbutz systems were built around farming but have now advanced to manufacturing and the hospitality industry. Some businesses are privatized and workers are salaried. Others have members work as their obligation to the kibbutz as a whole.

One of the daycare facilities on the kibbutz
A kibbutz air raid shelter frequently used during missile attacks

My visit was an eye opening and enjoyable experience that cautioned me to rely less on my preconceived perceptions.

Copyright 2020@ The Autonomous Traveler.com All rights reserved.

Israel-Maybe Life is Like Broccoli

Picture Courtesy of wiseGEEK.com

I haven’t written in days, I have been putting off trying to explain the dilemma of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have both Jewish and Muslim friends and acquaintances now. I want to learn about the world and its people but I want to stay neutral. The conflict in Israel is not about religion but rather about territory. It is about two separate factions wanting their land of origin back. It involves centuries of history, interference from other countries, politics, anger, and unsuccessful compromises.

Picture courtesy of WPBS.com

My country is divided. This, too, has been caused by centuries of history, interference from other countries, politics, anger, and an inability to compromise.

The world situation and the constant bad news is starting to affect me as it affects all of us. I’ve been waking up each morning feeling very crabby. I’ve been wanting to stop this since it comes with a lot of negative thoughts. My memory is sharp enough to replay all the scenes of stupid things I’ve said and the awful mistakes I’ve made in life and there are many.

But this morning I got an idea. A long time ago at an outdoor art festival, I learned about a thing called fractals. A young artist had made a design that repeated the same pattern in different sizes to make one big piece of art. He explained that fractals are everywhere in nature, for example, a grain of sand is a fractal of a once very large boulder.

Image result for fractals broccoli
Picture courtesy of inverse.com




Picture courtesy of SFU.com

This is clearly illustrated in the pictures above. Each part of whole thing is made of smaller parts that are miniatures of itself.

Maybe life is like the broccoli in the picture. I’ve decided to break down my life so I can be a better part of the whole. I will never be able to totally understand or change the whole world but I can appreciate one person at a time. I can listen to human stories and enjoy the uniqueness of each one. And in the process of customizing each individual encounter, I hope to find that it is okay to stand up for myself when needed, changing the things I can and accepting the things I can’t. I can acknowledge my flaws and imperfections and learn from them. Calming my busy mind, I can let go of the past and remain unanxious about the future. Reducing things into manageable steps, I can take one day at a time and make the most of every moment.

Today is January 1, 2020, the beginning of a new year and a new decade. Tomorrow I start PT for my broken ankle and I will learn to walk again, one step at a time.

I’m writing again on my blog. Some of my entries are better than others. I make errors, sometimes I find them when I reread and sometimes I don’t. There are people who won’t ever read my blog and there are some people who don’t like what I say or how I say it. But I love to write. I will keep writing, one post, one word at a time

Happy New Year! May each of us, in our own way, find peace.

Copyright@2020 The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.

Israel-Quirky Chapters in History

I lived through two quirky times in history. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I experienced the groovy era of minishirts, psychedelic posters, and Twiggie. Later in life, I observed the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. All through history groups of people have broken away from the norm, wondering if things could be better if the status quo was questioned. They tried to make something new, hoping to create something better.

It happened during the Renaissance, for example. And even where I grew up in Western and Central New York State. I wrote about it in my blog post,”Flesh and Blood, Bits and Pieces. Before the Civil War, my area was a hotbed for divergent thinking and reform.

I stumbled on one particular quirky era, The Age of Modernizm, after learning about Antoni Gaudi, a totally off the wall architect from Spain who died in 1926. I always thought that people from the early 1900’s were kind of dull . I learned about Pablo Picasso and cubism in school but there was a lot more going on. It was a time when traditions in art, politics and social views we being broken by a small group of social pioneers. It was the time of the machine age, Margaret Sanger and birth control, the formation of labor unions, Matisse, T.S. Eliot, Theater of the Absurd, Nihilism and other edgy occurrences, small slices of society in cultural revolt.

A roof top of a building designed by Antoni Gaudi

This energy did not bypass Israel. In Germany, an architectural movement started in 1919 called Bauhaus. It was characterized by undecorated surfaces, ribbon window, flat roofs, and outdoor living spaces. Because Jews in Germany were being increasingly discriminated against, many of the Bauhaus group fled to Israel and ended up in Tel Aviv. From 1920 to 1940, 4000 Bauhaus structures were built. The urban planning of Sir Patrick Geddes (mentioned in one of my previous posts) offered a wonderful ordered environment for the clean lines of this type of architecture. The buildings were popular since they took into account the warm Israel weather and were designed to use natural ventilation from windows and doors to cool rooms.

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I also went to a museum that paid homage to Dada, an artist movement started in 1916 in Zurich, Switzerland that was a negative reaction to the horrors of WWI. Artists created nonsensical works of art and plays in protest of the established social order. The museum in Israel was found by Marcel Junco one of the founders of the Dada. In 1941, he and his family fled to Israel from Romania during the Bucharest Progrom during which 125 Jews were killed.

Israel-Really Cool Ancient Stuff

It was like going back to the times of the Ben Hur movie! I was thrilled!

Caesarea Maritima was build from 25-13 BC by King Heron ( yes, The King Herod of the Bible) as a major port for the Roman Empire. It was the place where Pontius Pilate governed during the time of Jesus.The site is now a historical site between north of Tel Aviv.

Herod build himself a grand palace on the sea plus an amphitheatre and a hippodrome for chariot races just like in the movies.

The site changed hands many times over the course of history. It was the capital of a Byzantine providence. Then it was the last city in the Holy Land to fall to the Arabs. The Crusades march in later and changed the whole port into a fortified city.

I witnessed the layers of history represented in artifacts from different eras.

I enjoyed the exhibit showing pottery from different periods of time.

Glass came later.

What an experience back in time! I loved every minute!

Copyright@2019 The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.

Israel-The Seashell Lottery

On April 11, 1906, sixty Jewish families movednorth from nearby Jaffa to the sand dunes of the Mediterranean to established a new community.

Image result for founding of tel aviv
Image result for shell lottery Tel Aviv

A lottery was held to pair families with a building plot. Using sixty white shells imprinted with each family’s name and sixty grey shells each showing the number of a single building lot, the land was was fairly divided. This was the founding of Tel Aviv.

Yanay, my tour guide, was a wonderful teacher, very passionate about Israel and his Jewish roots. He told us that Israel was a miracle and he did an excellent job telling us why.

He took us to the Founders Monument that depicted the history of Tel Aviv. I loved this piece of art because it showed clearly a layering of history, how events can build on each and bring about progress.

Image result for founders monument tel aviv

A the bottom of the picture was nature. The Jewish religion had moved away the polytheistic traditions of early religions that had different nature gods and goddesses in multiple locations. In monotheistic Judaism, there was loyalty to Yahweh and a promise of good results from doing what was right, following traditions and Jewish law, valuing justice, and working together on common goals. The communal hard work of the founders of Tel Aviv was shown in the second tier of this sculpture. The next layer showed the first water tower and the Herzliya School, the first Hebrew school in Israel. Yanay pointed that it was very important for the Hebrew language to be established as the language of Israel. At the top of this pictorial history were renditions of the modern cultural buildings in Tel Aviv and in the background there were imaginative representations of buildings of the future.

Sir Patrick Geddes, a Scottish pioneer in the area of town planning was invited to lay out the plan for the Hebrew school. He went further and drew up a plan for the whole Tel Aviv area. In 1920 there were 2000 people in the settlement. By the end of the1920’s, 40,000 people came to live in this new vibrate Jewish community.

During my time in Israel, I felt a different vibe than I had felt in other countries or even in my own US. Culture is defined as “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group”. The culture in Israel seemed to be based on optimism, unity, and common goals. This clarity of purpose seemed to be moving their country toward positive action and continuous progress.

We have so many problems in the US. I heard about two shootings in the States while I was in Israel. I’m sure Israel has its faults. But my time in Israel made me really wonder if America has a cultural problem. We are a country that judges people on their wealth, not their character. Greed and the need for power seems to be national norms. We live in a place of name calling and bullying. Our government is getting nothing done. We, as American citizens, no longer share a common destiny as we surry into our special interest groups so we can look down on those who don’t belong. Our health, both physically and mentally, is being affected as we feel the weight of our nation’s continuous fighting and bickering.

I don’t know what the solution is. My purpose in writing this blog is to tell about the things I see and feel on my trips. I needed to write about this because unfortunately the contrast was so very strong and disturbing.

Copyright @ 2019 The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.

Israel-Finding Meaning in Hard Times

If I hadn’t had my accident in Israel, I would have never met the Muslim man who directed me to a deeper understanding of Judaism.

I met him in Syracuse, New York and because of my injuries he knew I had gone to Israel. I sensed that he was a traveler, too, and asked where he was from. He replied, “Persia”. I knew he meant Iran and I quickly told him what I believed to put him at ease. I told him that I traveled to learn about all religions, that I believed in inclusion and in the fact that we all share a common destiny. I asked him about his faith and he told me he was Muslim.

It turns out that the my new acquaintance was also on a quest to understand and showed me that he had downloaded the audio version of The World’s Religions by Huston Smith. That evening I ordered a copy of this book and when it arrived I immediately read the chapter on Judaism.

Picture courtesy of Syracuse University

The Jewish people have endured a long history of exile, discrimination, persecution, and even extermination. But through it all, as Huston Smith points out, the underlying power of Jewish survival has been its people’s search for meaning. Meaning found in God, history, morality, justice and most of of all suffering.

After my visit to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland, I read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, who was a prisoner at that death camp. I thought of him while I have been recovering.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

He has became a widely quoted existential author stating that life has no purpose and it is our responsibility to create purpose for ourselves. Every moment and experience, good or bad, helps us define that meaning.

He offered us a formula-

In my travels in Israel, I found cultural power. I found a country of problem solvers strengthen by a tradition of never giving up. I found myself inspired by this. I chose to find meaning in my mishap. The whole experience has given me a deeper understanding of the Jewish spirit and since I have been home has given me the opportunity and time to reflect even further. But the greatest gift has been a renewed confidence that allows me to declare, “Bring it on world! I’m going to be okay.”

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear almost any ‘how’.” Viktor Frankl

Copyright 2019@ The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.

Israel-The Iron Dome

Image result for the iron dome defense system
Picture courtesy of wisemoneyisrael.com

The Iron Dome is a mobile missile launching system using a specific algorithm that can calculate if an enemy missile is about to strike a populated area. With 90% accuracy, the launcher sends out its own missiles to explode the enemy missiles in the air.

Israel is a country surrounded people of many faiths and political leanings. Many of my readers are anxious to learn about what is going on in Israel. I will do my best to present the facts in an unbiased way.

The Iron Dome System, created in Israel, took 3 years to perfect at a cost of 20 million dollars.

Picture courtesy of The Jewish Policy Center

The launchers are compact and can be moved around by truck so at any time their location is hard to detect. Each unit has 12 missiles.

Since I’ve been home The Iron Dome has been used to destroy incoming missiles from the Gaza strip.

Copyright 2019@theautonomoustraveler.com All rights reserved.

Israel- Start Up Nation

My tour took me to The Israeli Stock Exchange in Tel Aviv and The Center for Israeli Innovation.

Image result for israeli stock exchange

Sorry but I need to use an idiom (all my books on writing frown on this) Here it goes, I was blown away by what I saw and learned there. Tel Aviv is called the Silicon Wadi (wadi is the Arabic word for valley). With a population of just 8 million people, Israel is home to 4000 tech start ups. That number ranks it fourth in world behind the US, Uk, and Canada in new company creation. Of the 5000 largest tech companies in the world, 400 have headquarters in Israel.

I took careful notes on this phenomenon during the center’s powerpoint presentation and have done research since I’ve been home.

Why is Israel such a innovative giant?

  • Talent 47% of people over 25 have a college degree. Hebrew College was founded in 1918 and has a collaboration program with many private companies.
  • Immigration and The Law of Return People from all over the world who are of Jewish descent or have converted to the Judaism are welcomed to be part of the country. Many of those people have degrees in science, technology and engineering.
  • Demographics Unlike Japan whose population is top heavy with elderly people, the bulk of Israel’s population is younger.
  • Venture Capital System In the 1980’s, 800,000 Russian Jewish immigrants flooded Israel. They had skills but couldn’t find jobs. What happened next was problem solving at its best. A system of providing financial capital  to early-stage, high-potential businesses was organized. This was so successful that in 1993 Yozma (Hebrew for “initiative”) was established as a system of “offering attractive tax incentives to foreign venture-capital investments in Israel and promising to double any investment with funds from the government”. And so Israel grew. Since 1980, has it has doubled its population and increased the number of job four times over..
  • High Standard of Living at Affordable Prices The Silicon Wadi in and around Tel Aviv offers a great place to work and live
  • Culture At age 18, all Jewish men must be part of the national military for 32 months,all Jewish woman at that age must serve for two years. In addition to protecting their country, Israeli youth learn how to work in groups toward common goals and to problem solve.They interact with other social classes and have the opportunity to network. Young soldiers with high academic scores work in the special operations division and many of them go on to be hired by tech corporations or able to start their own companies that produce innovative products.
  • Chutzpah defined as supreme self -confidence, nerve, or audacity. I see it as resilience, the bravery to take risks and the strength to go on in the face of failure. Because of my left turn I’ve been given time to research this concept and I’m finding that chutzpah is a strong force in the Jewish identity. It has been built by history and a desire to find meaning. It is the fire of Jewish life.
Image result for innovation Israel

Copyright 2019@theautonomoustraveler.com All rights reserved.

Israel-Remembering The Holocaust

I was raised in the rural part of Western New York State and never knew any Jewish people. But growing up in the 1950’s and1960’s, my teenage imagination and heart was pierced by the life and death of a Jewish girl named Anne Frank.

During my childhood, the impact of WWII was still very vivid. The Diary of A Young Girl was published in 1952 and the movie, “The Diary of Anne Frank” was released in 1959. History lessons about The Holocaust were of great interest to my fellow high school students and me. Hitler and the terrible things he did were the story we grew up with. It wasn’t a colorful saga like the superheroes fighting on the big screen today. It didn’t offer a happy ending as good guys beat up the bad guys. It didn’t allow us a sigh of relief because the conflict finally ended. The holocaust was real and it was horrible.

I read The Wall by John Hersey when I was nineteen. The author wrote about barriers put up around the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw, Poland during the WWII. These walls kept the Jews of that city confined as they waited to be exterminated.

Because of my Polish roots, I have gone to Poland twice. I visited Schindler’s factory in Krakow and got to see remains of the wall in Warsaw that I had read about.

I visited visit Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp. The German words on the prison gates offered a cruel promise, “work sets you free.”

Image result for auschwitz gate

What a horrible place. The Nazi had figured out just how many Jews would generate enough body heat to activate the poisonous chemicals in the gas chambers. In some parts of the camp, I actually smelled the lingering scent of death. I kept it together until I came upon an exhibit filled with the suitcases. I thought of the millions of Jewish victims who carefully packed their belongings thinking they were going to be relocated but were killed instead.

During this 1990’s tour of Poland with my aunt, there was a Jewish man on our tour group named Jack who was a guidance counselor from the midwest. He was a kind person who made a point of asking where everyone was from and taking a genuine interest in who they were. I soon found out that Jack had been a “guest” at Auschwitz. His family was killed there but he was kept alive because he was small and agile and the Nazi used him to light the fuse inside a nearby coal mine. At the end of our tour, I asked Jack what was the most valuable lesson he had learned in his life. He told me it was to always stay positive and to enjoy and cherish every minute of each day. I will write more about the strength that comes Jewish culture in future posts.

I want to close with a warning. We can’t forget this terrible time in history, this extreme time of hate that manifested itself in horrific death and destruction. My memories of The Holocaust have never left me but they were beginning to fade as I, like all of us, have gotten caught up in the stress of our present day world. Society is off balance. We presently live in a high pitched frenzy of gossip and labeling, righteousness and absolutism, bullying and scapegoating, exclusion and discrimination. Anti -semitism and white supremacy are making an appearance again. We all need to stop and look at what we are becoming before it is too late.

Copyright 2019 @ theautonomoustraveler.com All rights reserved.