Month: May 2018

Angels in Darkness, the Shining Light of the Israel Experience

 darkness

A Shining Light in a Pool of Darkness

A few weeks ago there was quite a tragic day for Israel. We experienced a rainfall so intense, several teenagers on a school trip were swept up in a flash flood. Ten of those teens did not return.

I want to tell the story of a small, shining light in the darkness of those day’s events.

I also got caught up in the storm. My life was never at risk. I was just extremely uncomfortable and more than a little bored.

Walking back from the grocery store, it started to rain. As the rain intensified, I looked for a place to stay and wait until the rain stopped.

I found myself standing with a small amount of cover next to a closed parking area. I hoped to be there for a short time, but just watched as the rain continuously strengthened over the next half hour.

The street in front of me was flooded and I looked on in awe as around four inches of water smashed its way through the street in front of me, like some miniature white water rapids. I also watched nervously as the water that started off several feet away from me was getting rather close to my feet. At the rate the water was rising, it wouldn’t be long until it was up to my ankles.

I was wet, cold, tired, and bored out of my mind. My phone was almost dead. And I really, really wanted to get home.

No Atheists…

I found myself doing something I rarely do. I prayed. For something–anything–to relive the discomfort and tension of the situation.

And almost immediately someone parked their car across the street from me.

A gentleman got out and insisted I come stay in his home until the rain subsided. I was reluctant, because it’s my nature, but with some heavy insistence, I took him up on his offer.

I needed to leave all my groceries behind, since the only way we were able to safely get to his home made carrying anything impossible. We had to climb up on the side of a wall, push our way through some trees and bushes, and finally trek our way down some stairs that looked like a violent waterfall was pouring over them, just to get inside his front door.

And that’s where I spent the next hour.

I sat, comfortable and warm. They gave me delicious, hot soup and a refreshing drink. They offered me clean, dry socks. For the next chunk of time we chitchatted about anything and everything, and I played with their adorable dog, the whole time forgetting how miserable I should have been.

And when the rain finally cleared up and the coast was clear, they drove me home.

Who were these people?

Now, even a cursory glance at my blog will tell most people that I struggle with my Israel experience. I struggle with appreciating the people and the attitudes and many aspects of the culture. Every day is an adventure where I’m trying so hard to be happy and stress free despite dozens of elements popping in all the time to interfere.

But these two angels, these bright lights in what often feels like a sea of darkness, make me question my view.

You see, they were full-fledged Israelis. We spoke the entire time in Hebrew. They’re not children of immigrants nor itching to get out of the country. No. They are 100% Israelis, and proud of their country and culture.

And despite all of the negativity I’ve expressed about Israel, I think what they did for a perfect stranger was not incidental to their being Israeli, but a product of it.

I’d like to explore three aspects of the Israeli attitude that I think cause folk here to be incredible at just the right moments.

1) Actions matter, words don’t

If you’ve been in Israel and no one has walked into you and not apologized, you haven’t been here long enough. Just wait a few moments. It’s bound to happen.

It took me forever to realize that whereas this drove me crazy, it was completely normal for Israelis. They were not bothered by it. It’s just how they move.

Now, I will forever teach my children to use the pleasantries of life. “Please” and “thank you” and “excuse me” are very important to me. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are objectively of far less importance than the actions to which they are related. Doing someone a favor is more important than the recipient saying “thank you”.

Israelis know this instinctively. In fact, to them the actions are the only parts that matter.

I wanted to shout from the rafters what this amazing couple did for me.

But they just wanted to be good people; my gratefulness was not factored in.

2) They are aggressive… for better or for worse

Israelis are intense, aggressive people. And this goes for their method of kindness alongside their everyday manners when walking down the street.

If an Israeli sees someone struggling to park a car in a tight area, they say, “Get out.” They enter the car, park it, walk off looking angry, and are never heard from again.

The couple that took me into their home wasn’t about to take “no” for an answer. They were doing me a favor, whether or not I liked it or wanted it.

I’ll never forget the TWO times in my life where an Israeli refused to give me directions, because in their opinion it was too far to walk and I should take the bus.

Yes, they were being a giant pain in the ass. But in their estimation they were trying to do me a favor.

Israeli aggressiveness is loaded with faults. But when it works out, it’s amazing!

3) Ultimately they recognize that we are all one big family

Living through an Intifada in Israel taught me an important lesson: Israel is one giant family.

Please understand what I mean by that. Families are often loaded with complications, as is the Israeli population. Older siblings are infamous for tormenting the younger ones. But when push comes to shove, the love between them is palpable. They understand when times are tough, and they understand when they need to band together.

These angels and I may have been perfect strangers, but in their eyes their brother was stranded outside, wet and cold. What self-respecting person would not take their suffering brother into their home?

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, opinion, 4 comments

The Death of Political Comedy

Political Comedy

I miss political comedy.

So much.

I remember the days of soaking in the Colbert Report and Jon Stewart and John Oliver. None of them, for the most part, represent my political thoughts or opinions. But they were always on point. And always hysterical.

And for reasons I hope to explore in this article, I feel like I’ve lost all of them. Two of the three of them are still quite active and extremely popular; I just can’t stand to watch their routines anymore. Not even for a few moment. I barely crack a smile. And it pains me that I no longer have this outlet.

Humor has gotten me through some pretty dark times. And who doesn’t love a good laugh?

I just wish we could return to the good ole days, when these folk made me laugh all the time.

Racially Insensitive Comedy

Let’s first look at my general view of, well, we’ll call it racially insensitive comedy.

I love it!

I unabashedly enjoy a good racist, sexist, or ethnic joke. It’s a fantastic world of humor. And it would be a shame to lose out on a great outlet for a few good chuckles.

And I don’t differentiate. They’re all funny! I enjoy jokes that make fun of men or Jews or Americans or any other group I identity with. A funny joke is a funny joke.

However, it doesn’t take an enormous amount of psychological instinct to uncover the motivation behind the joke’s teller. Just like a joke’s quality can be improved or destroyed by how it’s delivered, you can always feel the motivation behind the one telling a joke.

If the motive of the “insensitive” joke is good-willed humor, the joke has all the potential in the world to be funny. Place a small amount of hate into the tone of the teller–even the tiniest amount–and all humor is instantly sucked out of what could have been a comical tale.

Hate is the enemy of humor.

I repeat: Hate is the enemy of humor.

And this is one of the reasons I miss Jon Stewart so much. He wrecked so many people with his brilliant words and rhetoric, and in all of it, I never felt like there was animosity hiding behind his thoughts. I felt there was political motivation. And certainly an urge to impact others with his words. But it always felt like he was searching for the truth, rather than spewing venomous hatred onto others.

And always, his primary goal was humor.

Even with his political rivals, like Bill O’reilly, it felt like the banter between them was taken in the humorous spirit it was meant.

In walks his replacement, Trevor Noah. I loved Trevor Noah’s standup comedy. I thought his jokes and delivery were very creative. His impersonations were top notch.

And yet his version of the Daily Show is completely unwatchable to me.

The reason: I feel hate in every word that comes out of his mouth. By all means mock Donald Trump. Hell, it’s all they ever talk about these days (we’ll come back to that). But hatred? Come on! It’s beneath political comedians to have animosity toward those they mock.

And hatred is the enemy of humor.

If you cannot suppress your hatred of your topic, choose a different topic.

Which brings me to my next point.

Isn’t there anything else to talk about!?

Don’t be fooled. There are other topics besides Donald Trump. But it doesn’t feel that way anymore.

One of the things that made John Oliver so special was that he usually stayed far away from obvious, mainstream topics. But now he’s joined the crew of comics who explore one topic and one topic alone: The Trump.

Don’t get me wrong. Trump’s a treasure chest of things to mock. He says more crazy things in a day worth tearing apart than who knows how many of his predecessors combined.

But so many of us are sick of hearing about it.

And in a field where creativity is so important, choosing not only the same topic, but a particularly easy one, just demonstrates their writers have gotten lazy and uninventive.

Good ole George Bush Sr. and his friendly sidekick Dan Quayle provided the American people with four solid years of entertainment fodder. It was a golden generation! Amusement galore. However, it never felt overdone. And yet, with Donald Trump I was getting sick and tired of the jokes before he even took office.

So you have this wonderful trio of funny disciples of Jon Stewart, who combined have provided me with countless hours of laughter, but now spend their every waking hour recycling the same hate-filled jokes as each other on only one topic.

And I wouldn’t even know if they decided to try a new path, because I stopped watching a while back already.

Is political comedy dead forever?

I’m not sure political comedy can be resurrected once the sword has already pierced its heart. But I hope it can. I think people, particularly the younger generations, find this to be a more palatable way to become educated than newspapers and documentaries. You can argue that it’s a flawed method, since it’s inherently biased; however, you can easily say the same thing about any news program or publication. Where are biases not overwhelming in the media? At least this way we receive important information and a few solid chuckles along the way.

Sadly, the odds of John Oliver and the others reading my post are pretty slim. They should know, however, that there are those of us out there who really appreciate their brand of humor, regardless of political leanings or affiliations, but are frustrated and feel that they could be doing what they do better.

Comedy, among other things, has repeatedly breathed some vitality into my soul. But it only works when it is done with the spirit of levity and joy with which it is intended. Slip outside even a little, and the art is tainted.

Please don’t rob me of something so special to me!

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in humor, opinion, 0 comments

The Futility of Voting

voting

I Didn’t Vote

I didn’t vote in the last US elections.

Yeah, I know. I’m an enemy of democracy. I am a threat to the American dream.

But if you hear me out for a second, maybe I have a point or two.

So why didn’t I vote?

The simple answer is: I wasn’t available. My flights to Israel began on November 6th, 2016, and I arrived on the 8th. Ironically, I probably knew more about what was happening in the election because of this. In a jet lagged stupor I wandered around Jerusalem at 4AM, and I was quite surprised to walk past numerous sports bars offering all night election coverage.

So… I didn’t vote because I couldn’t. I’m good to go, right?

Except my sometimes unfortunate urge to be more honest than I should be is preventing me from ignoring the simple fact: I wasn’t planning on voting anyway.

No One To Vote For

The simple reason, which I’ll address in depth, is I have been disillusioned with the office since as far back as I can remember, and far more so with these particular candidates. But I’ll get back to that.

First, I want to address those who have responded angrily to me, and accused me of non-democratic behavior. I think they are a tad confused about how freedom works. Why is my right to not vote any less important than your right to vote? Once people are forced to vote, either through laws or overbearing social pressure, than our totalitarian attitude isn’t all that much greater than a society that doesn’t allow citizens to vote at all.

Now, my main reason for not voting was that neither candidate did anything for me.

Maybe it’s a trite point, but I’m still floored at the notion that in a country of 360 million people, many of whom are absolutely fantastic, brilliant, hard-working, and moral beings, we can’t seem to put anyone fitting that description on the ballot.

I’m not one of those people who hates all politicians or wealthy folk or people in power. Quite the contrary. I’m sitting back, avidly watching, hoping to become inspired by everyone I see. And falling short. Every. Single. Time.

I want a president who vigorously pursues peace around the world, not one who is just looking for fame and glory. I want a sincerely good person striving to make the world better than the one they found.

But what do I get? False promises, painfully biased and dishonest attention grabs, more and more violence, and people who disgust me rather than inspire me.

Barack Obama and the Armenian Genocide

For a moment, I’d like to speak about our previous president. Full disclosure, I did not vote for Barack Obama, nor was I a fan of his politics, for the most part. However, I got caught up in the hope and magic alongside of everyone else. You’d have to be insane not to recognize the significance of what his presidency represented.

In addition, he seemed to inspire hope. We hoped things could get better. We hoped international relationships would get closer, and the world would finally get smaller for all of us.

And in a small inaction, my hopes were repeatedly demolished.

Many are unfamiliar with the Armenian Genocide. If so, get familiar. It’s your responsibility as an educated person and a believer in the innate value of all human beings. In short, the Armenian Genocide was  the Turkish government’s massacre of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923.

For an assortment of political reasons, many countries are reluctant to publicly acknowledge the event, or at least the severity of the actions by referring to them as a “genocide”.

Barack Obama criticized others for their stance, and promised to use the word “genocide”. To not hold back on his moral duty to do what’s right even if it is unpopular or politically complex.

But he did hold back. He shirked his duty and broke his promise, and yet again reminded the American people that all the talk in the world will not stop politicians from being politicians.

A President I Want

Why can’t we get legitimately amazing people into the office? Arguably it’s inherent in the position itself. It lends itself to seeking honor and fortune, and the greatest people among the society shy away from such trivial things.

I want a president who I can look up to. Who I admire. Who I think of as a great and inspiring figure, not a liar, or an adulterer, or a nincompoop reality show star. And I cannot place my vote for anything less. I will not waste my time showing up to the polls to “choose the lesser of two evils” or because of thoughtless social pressure.

I will only vote for someone worthy of that choice.

The Electoral College

Finally, I want to address the futility of voting in general. Since we were children we are taught the importance of voting. We need to make our voices and opinions heard!

But the reality is so very different.

The United States election is still run by the highly inefficient and antiquated electoral college. Everyone complains about it; but nothing ever changes.

Voting Gone Nowhere

I’ve lived in New York, Maryland, and Kansas, three states that with almost no exception always vote democrat, democrat, and republican respectively. If I vote the other way in any of these states, my vote (and time) are literally wasted. And you can try and explain that the voice is still heard, but does anyone honestly believe that?

Millions of people across the country cast a vote that gets tossed in the trashcan. Are we really supposed to believe that tons more people wouldn’t come out to vote if their voice actually mattered?

Every year I watch as some states’ polls are still not closed when the election is already complete. Are we really supposed to believe that tons more people wouldn’t come out to vote if their choice was still relevant?

We’ve pushed ourselves into such a corner, where politicians pander to swing states and ignore the rest of the country. And it’s just some type of peculiar game where everyone is trying to beat the system laid out for them.

So…

So I’m being told to choose a candidate I don’t want in an election where my vote is worthless.

Please, please, convince me otherwise.

Why should I bother voting?

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, politics, 0 comments

Why Don’t My Employers Like Me!?

employers

Maybe It’s Me

After last week’s post, I started seriously contemplating some of my employment (and personal) history over the last 40 years. I’ve always been quite introspective. And I try very hard not to make excuses. So after quite a few years of having employers dislike me, it really got me thinking.

Maybe it’s me.

A couple of weeks ago, a former boss of mine visited and stayed at my home for a few days. We had an amazing time. So obviously I am fully capable of having positive relationships with my employers. After he left, my son and I chatted about my other jobs and bosses. I think overall I may have had a really positive relationship with somewhere around 20%!

Let’s get a few things clear. This is not about doing my job well, nor is it about great relationships with the other elements within my jobs. I believe–I really do–that I was successful, albeit at varying levels, wherever I have worked. And I have always enjoyed a lovely relationship with my co-workers, and I have years upon years of great connections I still maintain. I also had a fantastic relationship with countless students, as well as their parents. (And an important side note: This seems to no longer be an issue since I’ve left all forms of education.)

Hovering Around the Top

No, my issues usually hover right around the top. Unfortunately, it’s he who signs the paycheck and makes decisions about my status as an employee where my problems consistently lurked. And that’s the relationship I’m hoping to explore in this post.

My first instinct is to look at my past. My earliest significant memories were of my days in summer camp while in high school. Countless positive experiences… and again, a director who couldn’t stand me. Of course the only way to understand why that’s the case would be to ask her. However, I think it’s because of my perennial lack of ability to follow rules I don’t understand or don’t agree with.

I was never the stereotypical “bad” kid. I wasn’t off in the woods smoking pot. Nor was I violent. But the bad kid also knows how society perceives him, and thus does all in his power to not get caught. They knows their actions will get them immediately kicked out, so they perfect the art of sneakiness, and they’re off doing whatever they do when and where no one will find out.

Whereas my transgressions would usually be things like curfew violations. As a child, I never understood why someone deserving of trust or who wasn’t actually doing anything wrong needed a curfew. Furthermore, by that point in my life I basically had no curfew at home. Why should I have one artificially placed upon me elsewhere?

Now, I’m not saying camps shouldn’t have curfews, parents shouldn’t give curfews, either should differentiate between campers or children respectively, or that I was even behaving properly. I’m just explaining my attitude. An attitude that appears to have spilled a hefty amount into adulthood.

Do What The Boss Says

Do what the boss says. Why? They’re the boss. It’s the generally accepted  viewpoint of how to behave properly in the workplace, and certainly a safer path for one who wishes to advance, or minimally maintain their job.

But what happens when you know in your heart or logically that your boss is leading you down the wrong path? Or what happens when your boss makes a suggestion that you choose not to follow, only to find out later that their “suggestion” was just a silly passive-aggressive way of telling you what to do?

And then there’s the issue of education. Teachers thrive best when their classroom is their classroom. This means that unless something really bad is happening, principals and administrators should do their best to stay out of their teachers’ ways and let them teach how they feel comfortable. They need the ability to asses  the students in ways they feel comfortable and the space and piece of mind to be able to do what they do to the best of their abilities.

This may be the case in other jobs as well, but I don’t believe it’s to the same extent. Obviously a teacher cannot choose their students or hurt anyone in any fashion, and they can’t choose to abandon a curriculum. However, their method of getting their students from point A to point B should be left entirely in their hands.

Or should it?

Yes, this is how administrators are supposed to behave. But what happens when they don’t? Do we just default to “listen to the boss” even when the boss is wrong?

Sadly, the answer is yes. At least if you want to keep your job. But even if you do what you’re told, and do so quickly, your reluctance or questioning is always noted, and will not go well for you.

And I think that’s the first step in understanding what’s going on with me, and also understanding why I haven’t really had a problem since leaving education.

I have trouble doing what I am “supposed” to do when I know in my heart that it is wrong, and in a sense it’s a more “adult” version of how I ignored rules I didn’t care about as a teenager.

I do not believe that I have solved the riddle of the uncomfortable recurring patterns in my life, but I do think I have at least begun to scratch the surface.

I’m also not necessarily proud of the behavior. And certainly not the outcome.

Just observing.

I will continue to plunge deeper into who I am and what has happened in my life, in order to better understand the results. And I will seek synergy in a way whereby my obsession with personal integrity and passion for autonomy do not interfere with my professional success.

If you have any insights that I am overlooking, trust me: I’m all ears.

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in education, personal story, 0 comments