16 October 2017

The Dalai Lama Writes About World Peace

The Dalai Lama writes an amazingly inspiring and insightful piece which puts into eloquent words that which I stumblingly hope to confer to the world in my own way through this blog - we are all human, we all think and feel, we all need to learn to share our planet and we all deserve to live with dignity and respect.

I originally started writing this post in February 2015, then attempted to continue it later that year, before abandoning it again. It is now October 2017 and after resetting every password for this blog and the associated Twitter account, I've come back to it after barely thinking about it for more than two years. There are things I want to say, things I want to speak out about, things I want to write about... Doing that under my own name isn't always the smartest idea in this day and age, which is why I created this blog in the first place. What I write about however isn't all that controversial - equality for all, humans from different backgrounds understanding each other better, all of us as one learning to make the world a better place, loving our neighbours as ourselves, history and philosophy, religion and anthropology...

This post I'm writing today, it feels as relevant today as it did two and a half years ago. I'm having trouble deciding which bits to share as it's a long article and there are many 'quotable' paragraphs to choose from. I urge you to read the article yourself. Whether one is a Buddhist or a Jew or a Hindu or a Christian or a Muslim or a Noahide or an atheist doesn't matter - the Dalai Lama's wise words are not limited to only one religion and are not meant for only one group of humans - they are meant for all. Here's a short selection of wise words from A Human Approach to World Peace:

"When we rise in the morning and listen to the radio or read the newspaper, we are confronted with the same sad news: violence, crime, wars, and disasters. I cannot recall a single day without a report of something terrible happening somewhere. Even in these modern times it is clear that one's precious life is not safe. No former generation has had to experience so much bad news as we face today; this constant awareness of fear and tension should make any sensitive and compassionate person question seriously the progress of our modern world."

"I am sure that many people share my concern about the present worldwide moral crisis and will join in my appeal to all humanitarians and religious practitioners who also share this concern to help make our societies more compassionate, just, and equitable. I do not speak as a Buddhist or even as a Tibetan. Nor do I speak as an expert on international politics (though I unavoidably comment on these matters). Rather, I speak simply as a human being, as an upholder of the humanitarian values that are the bedrock not only of Mahayana Buddhism but of all the great world religions. From this perspective I share with you my personal outlook - that:

1. Universal humanitarianism is essential to solve global problems;
2. Compassion is the pillar of world peace;
3. All world religions are already for world peace in this way, as are all humanitarians of whatever ideology;
4. Each individual has a universal responsibility to shape institutions to serve human needs."

"In their quest for happiness, humans have used different methods, which all too often have been cruel and repellent. Behaving in ways utterly unbecoming to their status as humans, they inflict suffering upon fellow humans and other living beings for their own selfish gains. In the end, such shortsighted actions bring suffering to oneself as well as to others. To be born a human being is a rare event in itself, and it is wise to use this opportunity as effectively and skillfully as possible. We must have the proper perspective that of the universal life process, so that the happiness or glory of one person or group is not sought at the expense of others."

"The world is becoming smaller and smaller - and more and more interdependent - as a result of rapid technological advances and international trade as well as increasing trans-national relations. We now depend very much on each other. In ancient times problems were mostly family-size, and they were naturally tackled at the family level, but the situation has changed. Today we are so interdependent, so closely interconnected with each other, that without a sense of universal responsibility, a feeling of universal brotherhood and sisterhood, and an understanding and belief that we really are part of one big human family, we cannot hope to overcome the dangers to our very existence - let alone bring about peace and happiness."

"Whether one believes in religion or not, there is no one who does not appreciate love and compassion. Right from the moment of our birth, we are under the care and kindness of our parents; later in life, when facing the sufferings of disease and old age, we are again dependent on the kindness of others. If at the beginning and end of our lives we depend upon others' kindness, why then in the middle should we not act kindly towards others?
The development of a kind heart (a feeling of closeness for all human beings) does not involve the religiosity we normally associate with conventional religious practice. It is not only for people who believe in religion, but is for everyone regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. It is for anyone who considers himself or herself, above all, a member of the human family and who sees things from this larger and longer perspective. This is a powerful feeling that we should develop and apply; instead, we often neglect it, particularly in our prime years when we experience a false sense of security."

"I maintain that every major religion of the world - Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism - has similar ideals of love, the same goal of benefiting humanity through spiritual practice, and the same effect of making their followers into better human beings. All religions teach moral precepts for perfecting the functions of mind, body, and speech. All teach us not to lie or steal or take others' lives, and so on. The common goal of all moral precepts laid down by the great teachers of humanity is unselfishness. The great teachers wanted to lead their followers away from the paths of negative deeds caused by ignorance and to introduce them to paths of goodness."

Source: A Human Approach to World Peace
The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

12 June 2016

Serabit el Khadim, Hathor, Moses, Mount Sinai and the Exodus

Serabit el Khadim is a mountain in the Sinai peninsula in Egypt. Near it are two other peaks with names that, to those who read the Torah / Pentateuch, may sound familiar: Jebel Saniya and Jebel Ghorabi. There is a temple to the goddess Hathor on Serabit el-Khadim.

After reading about the location in a fantasy fiction book that mentioned prominent archaeologist Flinders Petrie as well as the temple to Hathor, I became intrigued and wanted to learn more about this desert location. The book also mentioned the possibility that this location had been where Moses received the Ten Commandments, something that most definitely intrigued me as well.

I am personally interested in the story of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt and enjoy learning about the period of our world's history in which this Exodus may have taken place. Unlike many, I do not believe that Rameses II was the Pharaoh of the Exodus, believing it to be much more likely that the Exodus occurred around the time of Akhenaten. After all, Akhenaten changed the official religion of Egypt, turning it from a religion worshipping a large pantheon of gods and goddesses into one worshipping only a single god through Akhenaten - the Aten, depicted as the sun. As this Egyptian religion has a lot in common with the religion of Moses - monotheism - I started wondering what the connection was between the two.

According to the Bible, the tenth plague was the death of the firstborn males of Egypt. Akhenaten's older brother, the original Amenhotep III, died young and was the firstborn of his father. Akhenaten became Pharaoh only due to his older brother's death. What if the events Akhenaten witnessed as a child influenced him so much that he began to believe in the god of Moses and changed the state religion to one more in line with what he thought Moses believed and represented? While I am not someone who believes that every word in the Bible / Tanakh is true, I do believe that a lot of the stories in the Bible have a basis in fact. So, why wouldn't the Exodus also be based on actual events? Do I think events played out exactly as described in the Biblical books we know today? No. The Documentary Hypothesis sounds very plausible to me and I do believe that the Bible we know today is made up of stories from several different sources - stories woven together to make different tales into one narrative.

There is actual historical evidence that ancient Semitic peoples resided in north-eastern Egypt. There is actual historical evidence that the Egyptians used slaves to build many of the great monuments. There is actual historical evidence that Akhenaten lived - he was Tutankhamun's grandfather or forefather - and founded a new religion with its centre of worship based at Amarna. What if the ancient Hebrews helped build Amarna, instead of the store cities mentioned in the Bible? What if at least some of the Biblical plagues are based on actual events and inspired Akhenaten to make the sweeping changes he is so well known for today? What if...?

I am veering off-topic however, as I wanted to write about Serabit el Khadim. The website Mysterious World explains that Lina Eckenstein believed that Serabit el Khadim was the site of Moses' Mt. Sinai. Lina Eckenstein was a British polymath, historian, writer, researcher, philosopher, proofreader, translator, scholar, linguist and teacher. She was also a research assistant to Flinders Petrie, as well as someone who worked to change the role of women in society. She lived from 1857 to 1931 and, judging by the little information I've found about her online, sounds like someone I'd love to be stuck on a desert island with. Just imagine the stories someone like Lina Eckenstein could tell, the many amazing sights she'll have seen and the adventures she'll have had... I'm drifting off-topic again though. Back to Serabit el Khadim.

"As Eckenstein pointed out, besides fulfilling the geographical criteria as laid out in the Book of Exodus, the Serabit al-Kadim area also has many other outstanding features that the other locations do not share, including 1) the first recorded Semitic inscriptions, 2) a pre-existing temple complex (the Temple of Hathor, built over an even older Semitic temple), 3) a complete mining and manufacturing facility including substantial living quarters, and 4) a metallurgical facility including specialized tools, workstations and a crucible — all of which would have been necessary for Moses to have built the ark, the tabernacle and the associated furniture."

Source: Artifacts: The Exodus Revelation 1L Part 2: The Exodus | Mysterious World

Reading the paragraph above, Serabit el Khadim sounds like the perfect place for Moses to take his people to. Even the golden calf episode makes a lot of sense when one considers that Hathor was also known as the Cow Goddess as well as by many, many other names. To learn more about the origins of Hathor, read the very interesting article Origins of Hathor at the website if Sidney Rigdon.

Is it possible that the early Israelites took a lot of supplies with them when they fled from Egypt? Possible yes, however not all that likely when one considers they were, according to the story, being chased by an army. So, where did the people get the materials to build the Tabernacle with? Where did they get all the materials for the construction of the priestly garments? Reading about the construction of the Tabernacle and the making of the priestly garments as described in Exodus 38:21 to 40:38, one gets the idea that a lot of materials were needed for the construction / manufacture. Gold, silver, bronze, yarn in different colours, linen, precious stones, chains of pure gold, bells, clasps, frames, crossbars, posts and bases, ram skins, curtains... It seems logical that finding supplies in a desert can be hard (to say the least), which is why it makes sense to me that Moses and the Israelites did this at a location where supplies could be found.

Whether the Exodus as described in the Biblical Book of Exodus actually happened as described or not is something others have discussed for centuries. I am simply going with the answer that makes the most sense to me - some parts are based on fact while others are not. Even looking at modern-day reporting about an event, it often happens that different newspapers, television stations or reporters describe the same event in a different way - each from their own point of view, to influence readers / viewers to come to a certain conclusion or to promote a certain agenda. Just imagine what thousands of years of history, changes in religious mindset and thinking, as well as changes in understanding and culture might have done to change a story! Whether Serabit el Khadim truly is the site where Moses received the Ten Commandments is something only time will tell, if at all. Yet until we can be certain one way or another, it makes a lot of sense to me as a possible location for one of the most well-known happenings of the past several thousands of years.

12 February 2016

Anonymous, the famous author

Goodreads reviewer Manny wrote a very hilarious and entertaining review (well... not quite a review...) of the Qur'an / Koran on Goodreads. I laughed and chuckled and laughed and chuckled some more. Check out this very entertaining entry about famous authors, Anonymous and the battle of the Goodreads librarians:

Manny's Reviews > The Quran


03 February 2016

The Possibility of Peace in the Holy Land

Personally, I'm for peace between Israel and the Arab / Muslim world, the Palestinians included. I'm for a one-state, a two-state, a three-state or even a four-state solution IF that solution brings peace, prosperity and stability for ALL people of the region. I definitely do not think that Hamas will bring peace to anyone. They are open and honest about their desires: To destroy Israel and kill the world's Jews. Read the Hamas Covenant 1988 to find out for yourself, or read some excerpts of that Covenant through clicking the 'Hamas' tag underneath this post.

In an ideal world a "One Land Two States" solution would be my suggestion for peace in the Holy Land. Turning the presence and reality of Israel from a 'bad thing' into a 'good thing' in the eyes of Muslims might help them see that the Jewish people are NOT the enemy. Look at what Israel has achieved since 1948, look at how they have managed to make the desert bloom, look at the democratic and just society they are. In an ideal world, Israel would be the perfect teacher and guide for the Palestinians on their own way to becoming a free and democratic state. Yet in an ideal world, one side would not be actively trying to exterminate the other. Which means we are not living in an ideal world, we are living in reality.

I hear some of you say "Yes, but... Look at what Israel has done, look at how they treat the Palestinians." Words that seem to magically make terrorist attacks and repeated (and ongoing) calls for genocide 'okay' somehow because the 'poor Palestinians' are only reacting to the 'evil Israelis'.
To those people I say: Wake up, open your eyes and look past the story the media is spoon-feeding you. I am not saying that all Palestinians are terrorists, of course not. I am not saying that all Muslims support groups like Hamas and ISIS, of course not. However many Muslims do heed the words of their prophet Muhammad, words that are repeated in the Hamas Covenant 1988:

Article Seven: 

The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees.

The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.

Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews."

(related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).

This hadith, related by two of the most respected and well-known hadith-collectors, is just as much part of the Islamic mindset as for instance praying five times a day and fasting during Ramadan. It is as much a part of Islam as the fact that the words Islam and Muslim come from the same root word that also forms the word Salaam - Peace. It is not the view of all Muslims that Jews must (or should or deserve to) die, certainly, however it is the view held by many.

It sounds like a somewhat strange line from a war movie. "There is a Jew behind me, come and kill him." People who believe that these words are true, that they were spoken by a Prophet of God, that they are important words, I do not believe that these people will work towards peace. The extermination of an entire people is NOT okay. That is what the Nazis tried last century, that is what ISIS tried in 2015 when they hunted down, starved and killed so many of the Yazidi people. The Nazis targeted the Jewish people, gays, gypsies and other minorities. The so-called Islamic State targets anyone who doesn't agree with their particular brand of Extreme Islam - be they fellow Muslims, Christians, Yezidis or people of other faiths. For Hamas who rule the Gaza Strip and Fatah who rule the Palestinian-controlled parts of Judea and Samaria (a.k.a. the West Bank), Israel is an enemy that must be targeted, Jews are a people who must be exterminated. That is the sad reality on the ground. The following is an excerpt from an article about Khaled Mashaal:

"Palestine is ours, from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land," he told the crowd on his first visit to Gaza. "We will never recognise the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take."
 ~ Khaled Mashaal, Hamas leader   |   Source: Tens of thousands celebrate Hamas 'victory' rally as exiled leader returns | The Guardian | Article Date: 08 December 2012

It may be relatively quiet right now on the rocket-front, however within a few years, rocket after Palestinian rocket will no doubt once again hit Israeli cities, towns, villages and fields. Until that time, Palestinians will send people to die in suicide attacks, will attempt to use knives, stones and cars to kill as many Israelis as possible. It does not seem to matter whether it is a pregnant woman who is stabbed or a mother who is brutally murdered in front of her children or a couple who die slowly as their children watch or a car driving into people simply waiting for the light to change or a teenager with a knife attacking people whose only 'crime' is waiting for the bus in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because the "poor, poor Palestinians" are simply acting out and oh, don't they just remind you of rebellious teenagers.  Somehow, the fairytale of the "poor, poor Palestinians" seems to be THE excuse needed for the world to find it acceptable that rockets are being sent at Israel, that teenagers are kidnapped, that innocents are being slaughtered. Not because of happenings in the last hundred years. Not because of the existence of the State of Israel since 1948. Not even specifically because the Palestinians want to finish what Hitler started, as I so often hear from shouting, masked men waving around IS and Hamas flags on the television news. When will the world stop believing in the innocence of the Palestinians? When will the media stop siding with the aggressors instead of the victims? When will we face the fact that Palestinians radicals are using Islam to slaughter as many Israelis as possible, as many Jews as possible? When will YOU learn the truth about what is rally going on and act to change what is happening? Peace is possible. Peace in Israel, in Gaza, in Judea and Samaria. Peace from the river to the sea, from north to south. Peace for all people, not just the ones with the best spin doctors. The only thing is... It might take a while:

“Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”

~ Golda Meir (Statement to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., 1957)

I originally wrote this post a year ago, in February 2015.
Now, a year later, I am posting it. Sadly, it is even more relevant today than it was a year ago.

14 October 2015

Today's Favourite Headline: "The Light of Israel is Defeating the Forces of Darkness"

Finally! A headline that makes me smile instead of wonder what the world is coming to. Instead of talking about Hamas or the Islamic State or threats made against the governments of European and other non-Muslim countries, today I'd like to talk about what's right in the world: "The Light of Israel is Defeating the Forces of Darkness" as the website United with Israel reports. What a joy to read those words!

The article (from exactly a year ago) reads like an advertisement for Israeli technology and innovation, showing the world that Israel, unlike the terrorists in neighbouring Gaza and Syria, is more interested in technological advancement and helping the world than wasting time on rape, murder, rocket attacks and destruction.

"On the Jewish festival of Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Law) we read how the universe was created – starting with the four words “Let there be light”. Today, Israeli solar energy projects light up countless homes. However, the Jewish State also has found another way to illuminate millions of lives – by removing the darkness itself."

Reading to the end of the article (if I wasn't pro-Israel already I would be now...) one finds out the article is actually meant to be an advertisement in its own way - it comes from the blog of Michael Ordman who writes a free weekly newsletter containing positive news stories about Israel. With all the bad press Israel gets from the world's media, writing positive stories about Israel sounds like a pretty amazing idea! Check out the United with Israel story or read the article on the Very Good News Israel blog by Michael Ordman.

07 July 2015

Quran: A Reformist Translation by Edip Yüksel

I am a firm believer in the need for all religious systems to be open to changing (their interpretations and explanations) with the times, for people to be free to choose the religion they want to follow and to choose their level of commitment to that religion. I also believe that as long as one sticks to some basic rules most of humanity shares, we should all be free to live our lives as we please.

I wasn't born into a religious family, have never been formally accepted by any religion as 'theirs' and have never converted to any religion. Simply put: I do not officially belong to any religion. If one must label me by religion, it is fair to call me someone who believes what Noahides believe. That is to say that I believe in the God of the Torah, the Bible and the Qur'an - The God of Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, Muhammad and many, many people around the world today. To find out what God wants from me, I turn to the source, to the Jewish Bible. While I most certainly believe in God, I do not believe that the Christian view of Jesus as God / son of God is accurate. This means that I do not acknowledge Christianity as true and do not (nor have I ever) self-identify as Christian. While I respect all peoples' beliefs and find studying religions of the world to be very interesting and worthwhile, there are aspects of Islam that do not appeal to me, just as there are aspects of Christianity and other religions that don't appeal to me either. Thus: I am not a Muslim either, nor am I a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Wiccan or a member of any other religion. Yet that doesn't mean that I can't read books about Christianity or Islam or any other religion.

In fact - I would say that my conviction that Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in the same God makes me more open-minded than many others might be. Thus, when I learnt about a version of the Qur'an that was different from the translations I had read so far, I was intrigued. The Reformist Translation of the Qur'an by Edip Yüksel is available in book-form as well as online. From Goodreads comes the following description:

The Reformist Translation of the Quran offers a non-sexist and non-sectarian understanding of the divine text; it is the result of collaboration between three translators, two men and a woman. It explicitly rejects the authority of the clergy to determine the likely meaning of disputed passages. It uses logic and the language of the Quran itself as the ultimate authority in determining likely meanings, rather than ancient scholarly interpretations rooted in patriarchal hierarchies. It offers extensive cross-referencing to the Bible and provides arguments on numerous philosophical and scientific issues. It is God's message for those who prefer reason over blind faith, for those who seek peace and ultimate freedom by submitting themselves to the Truth alone.

Source: Quran: A Reformist Translation by Edip Yüksel | Goodreads

A translation of the Qur'an that is non-sexist, non-sectarian and translated by a team that includes a woman to boot. Yes, I am most certainly intrigued. Perhaps it is just that the prospect of "extensive cross-referencing to the Bible" intrigues me (not a joke; I quite enjoy footnotes and references as they add much to the understanding of a text, especially when reading a translation)... Or maybe it's really that I am looking forward to actually reading about how this particular translation / interpretation of the Qur'an deals with the business of "provid[ing] arguments on numerous philosophical and scientific issues." Either way, I've only gotten through the very lengthy, detailed and informative introduction and am already mighty intrigued. If this book is truly as interesting as the introduction promises, then this version of the holy book of one of the world's largest reigions should be on every human's Reading List. Don't just take my word for it, check out what others have said (all quotes come from the book description - link as above - as found on Goodreads):

"A bold and beautiful translation that serves as a timely reminder to all believers that the Qur'an is not a static scripture, but a living, breathing, ever-evolving text whose sacred words are as applicable today as when they were first uttered by the Prophet Muhammad fourteen centuries ago."
- Reza Aslan, PhD., CBS News Consult-ant; Author, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.

"A testament to the fact that faith need not suffocate reason. This is bound to be among the smartest of 'smart bombs' in the battle of ideas within Islam."
- Irshad Manji, Fellow, Yale University and author, The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith.

"I completely agree with you in your rejection of the right of any group to arrogate to themselves the sole interpretation of the Quran.... Your effort is praiseworthy. Well done. Keep it up."
- Kassim Ahmad, former president of Malaysian Socialist Party and head of Malaysian Quranic Society who was declared "apostate" by religious authorities for his controversial work on the Prophetic Traditions.

"This translation is the best tool for those who want to understand the uncorrupted Message of Islam - justice and peace. This translation shows that the Quran is but the confirmation and continuation of God's system memorialized through Abraham, demonstrated in Torah through numerous prophets, and in the Hebrew Gospel through Ye-shu'a/Jesus, the righteous of God. This translation is a message of peace, justice and judgment..."
- Gershom Kibrisli, theologian and communal leader, The Karaim of the Early Hebrew Scriptures, Holy Land & Benelux.

"This Reformist Translation of the Quran and its ancillary materials should begin many conversations, between and among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In many parts of the Muslim world this is a dangerous discussion, and sometimes that danger can reach well into the West, as evidenced by the 1990 fatwa-inspired murder of Rashad Khalifa in Tucson, Arizona. It is an important discussion, however, and the editors of this book have assumed this risk to argue for a perspective that sets violence aside both in discourse and living. One can imagine that a broader adoption of their perspective across the Muslim world would reduce strife and invite greater examination of Islam by non-Muslims as something other than a threat. It would expand the conversation."
- Mark V Sykes Ph.D. J.D. Director, Planetary Science Institute.

"Very Interesting and Timely"
- Riffat Hassan, Ph.D. Professor of Religious Studies and Humanities at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. A pioneer of feminist theology in the context of the Islamic tradition.

"Quran: A Reformist Translation is also unique because it is the product of collaboration between two key figures in the pre-sent-day Qur'anist movement: Edip Yuksel and Layth Saleh al-Shaiban."

- Aisha Y. Musa, PhD, Professor of Islamic Studies, Florida International University; author of An Examination of Early and Contemporary Muslim Attitudes toward Hadith as Scripture (Doctoral Dissertation, Harvard University, 2004).(less)

23 June 2015

The Difference between Israel and Hamas...

What if they are wrong?

Read an article today that got me thinking. Sharing the first paragraph of the article here. Hope you'll head over to the Jewish Press to read the entire article. It's worth reading and the question the article asks is worth thinking about, no matter what you think about the Israel / Palestine situation.
With the BDS movement gaining momentum, many on the Israeli Left are increasing their calls for negotiations under the premise of a two-state solution. In their minds, the two-state solution is the only practical solution that could end the international isolation of Israel and lead to peace. But in the midst of the exhausted political ping-pong of whether or not the two-state solution is actually viable, the most important question often goes unasked – what if they are wrong?
Source: What if they are wrong? | The Jewish Press | 22 June 2015

Now, whether you went and read the article or not - and I hope you did, it's worth reading - do yourself a favour and use your imagination. Just for a moment, imagine you're living in Israel. Imagine you spent the summer of 2014 being bombarded by rockets, running to shelters, waiting for the siren to sound, hoping that just for a day, the rocket attacks against your country would stop. Imagine worrying about your friends, family members and loved ones. Imagine knowing that while you made it safely to a shelter, you worry about your son or daughter, your brother or sister, your mother or father, your cat or your dog, your new guitar, your home, your car. A rocket doesn't care about who you are, it doesn't decide not to hit you because you're waving a white flag. A rocket simply comes and strikes.

Do you live with neighbours who want to kill you, hurt you, even destroy you? Israelis do. Of course they also have many neighbours who simply want to live in peace, want their children to grow up, want to be safe and happy, want the fighting to end, want peace and safety and security for all people - Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims and Christians and Druze and people of all other nations, regions, countries and religions.

I hope that one day, Israelis and Palestinians will live in peace, side by side, as neighbours and friends, classmates and colleagues, brothers and sisters. I hope that one day, we will all live in a world where people do not want to kill other people, where we value life and love over death and destruction. If you want to help the people of Israel, if you want to help the people of Palestine, help make that world a reality. Help make peace a reality. Help by being part of the solution, by promoting peace, understanding and love over terror, distrust and hatred.

Wise Words - Gandhi

22 June 2015

Ramadan Kareem!

To all those who are fasting this Ramadan - May you have an easy fast.
I pray that God will hear and answer the prayers of those praying for peace, love and light.

21 June 2015

What Makes People Tick on Google Plus and Twitter

What Makes People Tick is not just a blog anymore!
Since the 8th of April 2015 we're also on Twitter. Yay!
And we've been on Google Plus for a while now, too!

Want to find us online? Follow the links...

29 May 2015

The Pope about anti-Semitism

The Times of Israel reports that Pope Francis spoke out about anti-Semitism:
In comments made to veteran Portuguese-Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman Thursday, Francis was quoted as saying that “anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel — and their right to exist — is guilty of anti-Semitism.”

Source: ‘Not recognizing Israel as Jewish is anti-Semitic, Pope says’ | The Times of Israel | 28 May 2015

Below, the Tweet from international journalist Henrique Cymerman:

Seventy years after the end of the Holocaust, as the internet connects and unites the world and people are able to make up their own minds based on the information freely available to them online, isn't it about time that we all kick anti-Semitism to the curb? The Nazis and those who helped them and supported them, killed more than six million Jewish innocent men, women and children. The second World War itself cost many more people their lives. And yet there are those today who claim that the Nazis were right and that they want to follow in the footsteps of Hitler and the Nazis. That somehow it is right or just to kill innocent people who are simply defending themselves from terrorism and repeated attempts to annihilate them.

Will humanity ever realise that killing and hurting people because of who they are and what they believe is wrong? Will we ever learn to let those who harm none live in peace? Will we ever learn to treat others with respect, justice and dignity? The world has changed a great deal in the years since the second World War, yet it seems that even though millions died, we have not learned from history. Perhaps we never will?

As we go through World War Three and are confronted daily with the vile and evil deeds of groups such as ISIS, al Qaeda, the Nusra Front, Boko Haram and those who think and believe as they do, who kill people simply for being who they are, who rape and enslave innocent girls and women, who throw people off buildings, who burn them alive, isn't it time that we - the people of the world - see the difference between those who are truly evil and those who are simply defending themselves from being annihilated by fanatics and terrorists wanting to kill, hurt, silence and annihilate those who do not think and believe as they do?

19 May 2015

The Cost of Being Female

Dear male readers, you might want to skip this article.
Then again, you might not. After all, it's only an article about
something that happens to all women - including your mother, 
sister, wife, cousin, neighbour, colleague, daughter and oh,
just about every other woman the world over.

The Huffington Post writes a very interesting article about the Pink Tax - what it costs the world's women to menstruate for much of their life. According to the article:

"On average, a woman has her period from three to seven days and the average woman menstruates from age 13 until age 51. That means the average woman endures some 456 total periods over 38 years, or roughly 2,280 days with her period -- 6.25 years of her life."

Source: Here's How Much A Woman's Period Will Cost Her Over A Lifetime | The Huffington Post | 18 May 2015

The Huffington Post article focuses on the cost of periods with regards to money, however I would like to write about the way society thinks about periods and treats women who go through their periods. Women make up about half of the world's population. Women who menstruate, those roughly between 13 and 51 years old (as per the article), make up a large percentage of the world's women. Unless one is especially keen to have stains in one's underwear or blood leaking down one's legs, one needs something to catch the blood - tampons, pads and panty liners, menstrual cups, simple rags to put into one's underwear. Whether one chooses to use tampons or pads or other items to catch the blood, one can't get around the fact that once a month, those who are not pregnant or somehow unable to menstruate (extreme sports or dieting can interfere with one's period, for instance), we bleed.

While periods are different per person and grumpiness, cramps and cravings don't happen to all women, they do happen to many of us. Some joke about their periods, some refuse to talk about them, some dread that time of the month, while others cherish the monthly reminder that they are fertile women with bodies that function well. Yet something that is normal to most of the world's women is still often seen as icky or strange by the men of our world, sometimes even by fellow women. Which is exactly why I'm writing this article, because monthly periods are as normal as breathing and treating menstruating girls and women as outcasts or preferring women stay quiet about a simple biological function that is common to all women makes little sense to me. And yet - speaking about periods in general or being open about period-related issues is something many people have trouble with.

Personally I do not feel the need to share news of my 'monthly visitor' with strangers or colleagues or people I barely know, such as the readers of a public blog. "Hey, it's that time of the month again" is not something I intend to share with others as to me, when I have my period is a private affair. I don't share my every thought with others either! Yet making periods something normal to talk about, something not seen as weird or strange or icky because it happens to all women, that is something I see as essential. Let me explain why. As a child, I was quite a 'tomboy' and had many male friends. We played sports together, went exploring together, climbed trees together, had fun together. Gender was not an issue as we were all essentially the same - children. As we all got older and I neared the age my period was due to start, the boys I'd been friends with for years started treating me differently. From being a child like they were, a friend whose gender did not matter to any one of us, I turned into a girl almost overnight. Both the boys and the girls in our group of friends were growing into teenagers, our bodies changing and taking us for wild rides. Yet instead of shrugging off those differences as a normal part of growing up, our differences started to divide us. The boys started hanging out together doing 'boy things' while the girls formed groups and started doing 'girl things'. Growing up is a normal part of life, however honestly, I still miss the days of being 'one of the guys' (or rather, just one of the children) when my gender and the shape of my body were not important to anyone.

I was still in primary school when boys and men started treating me differently. Why? Because my body changed. Instead of being just a person, just a child like other children, I was now 'a girl'. Boys walking past started whistling at me, going swimming at the pool meant being hassled by strange boys and men who made kissing noises at me and walking in public places became a nightmare after being groped by a stranger while walking on a crowded street. I still remember the horror I felt when a stranger's unwanted and unwelcome hand touched me between my legs and for the very first time in my life, I experienced what it was like to be assaulted. I was twelve then. Buying supplies for my monthly period became a strange thing as well - when going shopping I would attempt to sneak into the isle that houses the tampons and pads so as not to be seen by the boys in the store, then hid whatever supplies I bought under other groceries until getting to the counter. Why? Because buying sanitary products became something that defined me as a teenager, as a girl instead of just a child, just a person. And yes, because (some) boys seemed to make it their mission to treat girls buying supplies as outcasts, snickering at them, ridiculing them, laughing at them. Even ringing up my sanitary supplies at the check-out counter seemed impossible for many of the teenage boys manning the counters. They would carefully pick up whatever box of supplies was put in front of them as if it was likely to break or contaminate them, then look relieved when they could put the box down again to pick up the next item. Some of the boys would go red in the face, some refused to make eye contact and some simply looked embarrassed by having to handle a simple sealed box, as if the act of touching it meant they were 'contaminated by girl cooties' or some such.

As I got older and grew to understand that another treating me as an outcast or an alien did not mean I had to think of myself that way or take any notice of their opinions or shortcomings, I became more comfortable with my own body and the changes I was going through. Instead of feeling embarrassed by my monthly periods I grew comfortable with them and learnt to see them as a normal part of life and a celebration of being female. Yet the memory of feeling like an outcast and being treated as different just because I was growing up and changing never quite left me. Even though periods are normal and happen to all girls and women, as a teenager I was angry at life and my body for some time, unhappy about being different, about monthly cramps, about having to spend money on period supplies and about being treated as an object instead of a person simply because of my gender and my looks. Being a teenager going through hormonal changes and suddenly being treated differently by members of the opposite sex is hard enough without also feeling embarrassed or shamed by something that is normal and happens to all women.

In writing this blog post, I hope to share some of what I went through and how I felt as a teenager. Even if only one person reads this and thinks 'hey, maybe I shouldn't treat a young girl as an outcast because her body is changing' then this post has been worth writing. Despite what some religions may teach us about periods or how some societies (including the one I grew up in) may view menstruating women, the simple truth is that without menstruation and the monthly cycle, women would not be able to have children and our species would soon cease to exist all together. Which leads me to wonder - would it not benefit our world immensely to treat periods as normal and teach all people to cherish the female body and its amazing cycles instead of treating a little bit of blood once a month as something strange and alien to be feared or ridiculed?

18 April 2015

The European Union wants to label products from Judea and Samaria

As if all in Europe is well and all European countries are flourishing, the European Union seems to feel the need to meddle in affairs that - as far as I am concerned - are none of their (or should I say 'our'?) business. On the 16th April 2015, Israel National News writes that
Sixteen out of the 28 EU countries want the bloc to label products from Judea and Samaria in an economic attack on the Jewish state, diplomatic sources told AFP Thursday, confirming a Haaretz report.

The plan was first mooted in 2012, but the 16 member states told EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini it was now time to press ahead as part of efforts to force Israel to divide in a "two state solution."
Source: EU Label on Israeli 'Settlement' Goods: A Yellow 'Jude' Badge | Israel National News / Arutz Sheva

The sixteen countries whose foreign ministers (seem to) want to force Israel to give up parts of historical Israel to a second Palestinian-Arab state (the first being Jordan) are Britain, Spain, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Malta, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, Croatia, Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands and Luxembourg (Source: 'EU Boycotts Israel, Not Murderers in Syria or Gaza' | Israel National News).

As a citizen of one of the countries whose foreign ministers decided they want to label products from Judea and Samaria, I say: Not on my behalf, not in my name and certainly not because I asked it - I did not. My message to the EU is this: If you want to block or label products from non-EU countries, let's leave Israel alone for a change and look at labelling or blocking products from countries that support terrorism and the killing and subjugating of innocents; that want to destroy other countries, lifestyles or people; that discriminate against women or minorities being equal members of society; that threaten the existence of other countries, religions and peoples; and countries (or regions) that support - financially or otherwise - terror against innocent non-combatants.

However if the European Union does insist on labelling products from the Holy Land, I know that I and many others with me will be happy to buy those products - whether something is made in Haifa or Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or Maale Adumim - I support Israel and Israeli products, not those who are represented by terrorists and murderers wanting to kill as many Jews as possible and wipe Israel off the map.