Tamar Hermann produces a very valuable "Peace Index" that tracks vital signs in the mood of Israelis and Palestinians with regards to attitudes about ending the conflict, and moods and opinions regarding Israeli-Arab peace making.  Here, for example, is their Peace Index for July 2007.

But short of their professional work, I have four empirical indices that gage the mood of the people and the beat of the region surprisingly well.

The first is the Aboulafia Index.  Aboulafia is an Arab bakery in the entrance of Jaffo that used to be extraordinarily popular among Israelis in the early 90s.  You had to stand in line for several minutes to get one of their warm pieces of bread right out of their wood oven.  If you visited it in 2001 or 2002, it was stark: there was not one Israeli Jew to be found there, or for that matter almost anyone else.  Jews just did not visit Arab establishments in Jaffo those days. 

Today, Aboulafia is not what it used to be but it is certainly back to having a steady clientele, and Jaffo itself is becoming a very popular neighborhood, almost too popular as far as some Arab locals are concerned, who feel they will be pushed out by higher real estate pressures, akin to the pressures Hispanics are feeling in Spanish Harlem in Manhattan, and blacks are feeling in West Harlem.  But overall, at least as far as Jewish-Arab relations are concerned in Jaffo, things are significantly better than they used to be in 2002.  There is still a long way to go and there was a tough low after the divisive Lebanon war last summer, but some slow healing is taking place.

Then there is the Kalandia (or Qalandya) Checkpoint.  At times desolate and phantom-like, it is now bustling like never before.  The parking lot of Kalandya is my Kalandya-Meter to the state of business affairs in Ramallah.  Judging from my last few visits, the West Bank is witnessing a lot of activity and movement.  You couldn’t even find a spot, whereas in the lot was practically empty.  Here are a couple bad shots of the Kalandia parking lot:

 IMG_0099 IMG_0100 IMG_0101 IMG_0102

 

By contrast, Erez Checkpoint is quiet, quiet, underlying the paucity of activity and transit between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The Ben Gurion Airport’s level of activity, and hotel occupancy rates, are of course very good measurements of the perception of travelers about the safety of coming to Israel, though they have to be adjusted for seasonality.  Overall 2007 is marking steady increases in visits and travel.

Israeli Restaurant Activity is another important Index to sense the mood and safety comfort of Israelis. 

In Jerusalem, things are relatively quiet, better than in the early 2000s, but nothing like in Tel Aviv.

Nowadays, if you don’t have a reservation at a restaurant in Tel Aviv, you may not get a table.  Israelis are determined to live their lives.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Sonata for A Good Man

Published under Art, Movies Sep 17, 2007

I just finished watching The Lives of Others, an extraordinary film about life in East Germany in 1984, where a totalitarian system suppressed freedom of action and thought, presumably not too differently from the way the State controls the lives of hundreds of millions of innocent human beings still today, from Iran to North Korea, and to a lesser degree also from Putin-controlled modern Russia to Venezuela.

This film offers a particularly interesting window into how peoples’ lives are impacted by the State’s intrusion and control over private lives.  It is specially powerful because it details the story not just from the perspective of an artist who is being watched, but also from the point of view of a Stasi (East Germany State Secret Police) officer who, as in real life, is not a caricature of a bad man, but a complex character with a deep commitment to the socialist state and a code of ethics that leads him to unexpected realizations and choices.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

My Favorite All-Time Movies

Published under Movies Sep 17, 2007

Back in the mid 90′s, at Grimaldi’s (the home of the best Pizza in Brooklyn) with Jessica Hirsch, her friend Nadia, and Cem Sertoglu, we created a list of our 10 favorite films.  Since then, I’ve kept polishing it almost religiously – I am a real nerd when it comes to keeping lists, and a double nerd when it comes to movies. 

Friends occasionally ask me for a copy, probably so they can later tease me for daring to list the first Austin Powers movie among my top 10 (I stand by that choice, btw; if you watch several James Bond movies right before it, you will appreciate the creative parody even more). 

Films are a very personal choice – perhaps the reason why the Netflix movie recommendation system is so poor.  Choices often have a lot to do not just with individual taste, but also with the person’s state of mind when they see the movie.  That said, for anyone curious enough, here is my list, which ONLY contains good to great movies (maybe one day I will create a list of the worst movies ever, but that may be too long a list).  I will edit this blog entry sporadically when something good enough merits being added…This Entry Was First Made September 16, 2007. [Last Updated July 4, 2008]

If I missed a great movie, PLEASE share it.

AAAAA – The Very Very Very Best
Like Water for Chocolate
The Mission
The Sting
Into The Wild
Not One Less
Il Postino
Austin Powers I
Cinema Paradiso
Hanna and Her Sisters
House of Games(memet)
The Bear (french movie)
Central Station
Amarcord
Born Into Brothels

AAAA – Exceptional Movies
A Beautiful Mind
Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulin
Jagged Edge
The Verdict
The Spanish Prisoner
Ghost World
Amadeus
Best In Show
Usual Suspects
The Lives of Others
The Sixth Sense
Being John Malkovich
Liasons Dangereux
James Bond Movies
Schindler’s List
The Matrix
The Thirteenth Floor
My Life as A Dog
Le Bleu
Patch Adams
Parenthood

AAA – Excellent Films

Shawshank Redemption
Philadelphia
A River Runs Through It
Atanarjuat – The Fast Runner
The Jazz Singer
Overboard
La Mala Educacion
3:10 To Yuma
Lucia y el Sexo
Nights of Cabiria (Fellini)
Water
Lolita by Kubrick
Hable Con Ella
Forrest Gump
Life Is Beautiful
Europa Europa
Saving Private Ryan
Jean De Florette/Manon of the Spring
Atonement
The Indian Runner
Rodin/Camille Claudet
Gladiator
Chicago
Fight Club
As Good as It Gets
The Last King of Scotland
The Hoax
Talk to Me (Peety Green)
Jazz Singer
Pleasantville
A Civil Action
The Talented Mr. Ripley
When Harry Met Sally
Fargo
Mr Smith Goes to Washington
Freedom Writers
Wisdom of The Pretzel
Get Shorty
Moulin Rouge
Invincible
American History X
Camila
El Norte
Kinsey
LA Confidential
The Frisco Kid
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Ushpizin
Haleakah (the troupe)
Hair
Being There
Life As A House
Matchstick Men
Finding Forrester
American Beauty
Annie Hall
Emmanuel’s Gift
Can’t Buy Me Love
Night Hawks
Dark City
House of Fog and Sand
Enemy of the State
Spiderman II
Requiem for A Dream
Raising Victor Vargas
Training Day

AA – Very Good Films

Amores Perros
Catch Me If You Can
Finding Neverland
Godfather I and II
The Five Obstructions
Blazing Saddles
Pulp Fiction
Broadcast News
Scarface
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Virgin Suicides
Edward Scissorhands
Notes on a Scandal
Live Flesh/Carne Tremula/El Deseo
hunt for red october
primal fear
apocalypto
Baraka
Monsoon Wedding
Don Juan De Marco
The Sea of Love (al pacino movie cop/record)
Star Wars movies (I, II, III)
The Shine
Jerry McGuire
The Insider
Wall Street
There’s Something About Mary
Dead Poet’s Society
Memoirs of A Geisha
Water Boy
The Truman Show
Cruel Intentions
Rushmore
Black book
Lion King
Aux Revoir Les Enfants
October Sky
ET
Sunshine
Burnt by the Sun
Total Recall
Wayne’s World
Goodwill Hunting
Wild Thinqs; Malibu ….and Palmetto…
The Good The Bad and The Ugly
F/X
good night & good luck
Crash
Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room
Knocked Up
Spring Summer Fall Winter…& Spring
An Inconvenient Truth
Children of Heaven (Iran)
Braveheart
Fresh
Une Affaire De Gout
Lantana
20 Dates

A+: Also Good Movies
Clash of the Titans (& other greek movie)
Silence of the Lambs
Alan Alda/Cybil Shepard/ pfeiffer/kane filming re civil war
Donnie Brasco
The Shinning
The Man Who Cried
Illuminata
One True Thing
ONe Flew Over the Cooko’s Nest
Clockwork Orange
It’s a wonderful life
Hackman pentagon official frames kevin costner
Ghost
City Heat or Heat (pacino/deniro)
Basic Instinct
Pacific Heights
Gilbert Grape
Man in the Moon
Any Given Sunday
Green Mile
Election
Trading Places
A Fish Called Wanda
Groundhog Day
Love Actually
In The Bedroom
Remember The Titans
A Man For All Seasons
K-PAX
Pay It Forward
Austin Powers -II
About A Boy
Class
Jacob’s Ladder
Born on the 4th of July
A Little Princess
All About my Mother
American Pie
Fried Green Tomatoes
Leaving Las Vegas
Sleepless in Seattle
Mission Impossible I
The Never Ending Story
Wintchell
The Deer Hunter
David & Lisa
Titanic
Face/Off
Scent of A Woman
Searching for Bobby Fischer
The Game
Harold & Maude
The Opposite of Sex
Spartacus
Contact
Savior
Pacific Heights
Crazy/Beautiful
The Lord Of The Rings
CopyCat
The Gods Must be Crazy
Superman
Music Box
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Happiness
The Harvest
Jackie Brown
Deconstructing Harry
Advocate (pacino/keanu/devil)
Reservoir Dogs
Graduate
Seven
12 Monkeys
Babe
Casino
Clueless
Highland
Interview with the Vampire
Men In Black
The Cell
Gattica
X-Men
Dumb & Dumber
Freaky Friday
Stanger Than Fiction
Dancer In The Dark
The Birdcage
Arthur
Airplane
Disclosure

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Life’s Essentials

Published under Life Sep 17, 2007

This last summer and the next couple months, because of the work I am doing for October 18′s One Million Voices Summit, I realized I would need to live the life of a hermit.  I spent the last eight weeks in the Middle East, then 1 week in China, now am in the US traveling between CA, NY, DC and TX over the next month, and then will be back in the Middle East during October.

In preparation for this schedule, I had already packed most of my stuff and shipped it for warehousing or to my home in San Antonio and Tel Aviv.  Besides one suitcase of clothes, I packed one mid-size box with only the most essential things that I realized I would need when back in the US.

Today I found that box.  I had marked it "Essential Stuff."  I hadn’t needed all of these "essential" things for months, and I had forgotten all about it.  I still haven’t opened it, and don’t feel like it anymore.

I was struck at how little we actually need to function, and how all of these possessions actually make your life harder than easier some times.

I still remember our wise law school buddy Jonathan Guy, when he commented on how material possessions tie you and bog you down, how they impinge your freedom in so many ways.  Such wisdom from my dear friend Jonathan (though when I visited him a few years later at his beautiful home in DC, with a Porsche parked in his garage, his teachings rang a little less authoritative). :-)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

 

Back in August I met with a group of Israeli bloggers at a Cafe in Tel Aviv to talk re the OneVoice Summit.  One blogger, Dorothy from SavtaDotty, started with some tough questions but eventually not only posted a very positive blog but became a die-hard partner and even ended up spending an afternoon with us recording the We Are Standing Up PSA which we will soon unveil.  Liran from East Med Sea Peace posted this.  He also dropped me a personal email that really energized me.  Yohay from Things wrote this and we also had an entry at Israelated.

Jake Hayman and Yishay Mor hosted a blogger meet up in London on September 10th at the London Knowledge Lab.

We have another blogger meet-up coming up on September 24th in New York City. 

Craig Newmark will be hosting the NYC meet-up at 7pm in downtown Manhattan.

Arianna Huffington will be joining us.

If you want to join us, please send an email to Leah Jones (who posted this entry) – Leah.Jones AT Edelman.com.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

 

The OneVoice Gaza office was burglarized last night.

At 1:30am, armed guards forced the landlord of our office at gunpoint to open the doors to the OneVoice office in Gaza.

They stole two old laptops.

Nobody was harmed.

At first I tried to assuage my team members and joked that the thieves would be "cursed when they find out how old those two laptops are, and end up with frozen screens all the time."

But frankly the feeling of being violated does creep up, and I am sure it is ten-fold greater on the people on the ground. 

It is particularly disturbing that they zoned in on our laptops and could be trying to data-mine to get information about the 18,000+ Gazans that joined our movement in June, prior to our freezing the signature drive (which we hence have re-launched in spite of the conditions in Gaza now).

Other civil society organizations have complained about similar incursions and violations.  Hamas has a tight control over society and there is no "crime" committed and no action taken, certainly no armed groups roaming around, without the blessing of or active guidance by the militant wing of Hamas.

Civil society organizations need to band together and stand up against such abuses.  Otherwise they will continue to be intimidated and subjugated till there is no civil society left.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The first set of sad news for the people of Gaza this last week was that Hamas again violently suppressed the popular non-violent protest driven by the people. 

I had reported a couple weeks ago that the people in Gaza were self-organizing a day of prayer outside the mosques, as an expression against the hijacking of religion and co-opting of all mosques by Hamas.

After the demonstrations took place, Hamas lashed out and reacted violently.

That did not deter the citizens, who last Friday again demonstrated by praying outside the mosques.

But for some reason the media is reporting that these demonstrations are organized by Fatah, and that Hamas is lashing out against Fatah supporters.

Certainly many of those demonstrating must be Fatah supporters.  But to dismiss this as a political move on the part of the Fatah party is to miss the big and real point – that these demonstrations were truly driven by civil society, by young people, by different NGOs upset at Hamas’s oppression.

This is not about power struggles between two factions.

This is about suppression of liberty, vs. citizens’ quest to regain their freedom.

So the second set of sad news is that Fatah is trying to co-opt a courageous move from ordinary citizens and claim it as its own, causing harm to the cause.

This is not the first time this happens.  Many times when OneVoice has taken important initiatives, one political party has tried to co-opt our work, forcing us to not take such initiatives, because OneVoice must remain non-partisan and not aligned to any existing political party.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

 

Here are some pictures I just got from Mowaffaq Alami, OV Gaza’s Executive Director, of training going on for young people in Gaza to build a civic movement against extremism…

P9110005 OneVoice Gaza Training for Young Women

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

On September 11th, I wrote a piece wondering about Bin Laden’s motives.  Could he really believe that his actions would make us surrender?

But as much as we revile him, we must assume he is calculating and smart.

Bin Laden’s goal could not have been to defeat America in one blow or make America retreat from engagement in the Middle East.

Bin Laden’s goal must have been to divide the West from the Muslim world, and to that extent he has succeeded far more than he deserves.

If we are to truly deny him a victory, we must not allow him to define who are the parties in the battlefield: it is NOT Muslims vs. Infidels.  It is NOT the West vs. the Arab world; it is those who have a vision of militant absolutism and who will use violence to advance their intolerant visions, vs the vast majority of humans of moderate persuasion who just want to live in peace.

If we are to defeat Bin Laden, we need to recognize that the enemy is NOT a religion or an ethnic group.  Bin Laden would like us to think so, to alienate the groups and prey upon these divisions.

If we are to win, we need to reframe the conflict and work TOGETHER, denying him the mantle of representative of a religion. 

The overwhelming majority of Muslim religious leaders think Bin Laden a rogue who has no right to speak on behalf of one of the world’s great religions.  But they are seldom heard, because for the media this is not interesting.

We must amplify their voice.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

IMG_0130 Here is another insight from Avraham Infeld:

“First Lesson from the “Shoah” (the Holocaust): Look What Can Happen To People Who Have No Power.”

“Second Lesson from the “Shoah”: Look What Can Happen To People Who Have Power.”

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)