Let me begin by saying I’m biased about the situation between Israel and Hamas.
I am Jewish. My father was Jewish. My mother was Jewish. I was Bar Mitzvah’d. I was taught to sing “Next Year in Jerusalem” as a child in a synagogue. And so I will tell you right up front, I am biased.
Having said that, I try to be objective. I can see the other side. And so when we enter this discussion on today’s podcast, please understand I’m not blind to the criticism that I would be subjected to by those who say “Well, he’s Jewish of course, so what side do you expect him to take?”
You cannot assume that because I’m Jewish, I’m automatically in favor of Israel. In fact, most Jews in America are not in favor of Israel. Many liberal Jews in America hate Israel. They’re on the side of Hamas, the Arabs, as they were on the side of the PLO and Yasser Arafat. In some ways, they are truly the enemy within.
So having said that, I will give you my unique perspective. Have I been to Israel? Yes. Twice. I almost moved to Israel. And that is important to know. You can get the factual perspective from anyone in the news, but you can’t get the personal perspective anywhere but on this podcast. My perspective is my perspective.
It’s currently fashionable for people to say, “Why are you making it all about you?” My answer is that it is always about us. That’s what makes us human. That is how we humans relate to other humans. It’s through our lens, our eyes, our experience, our heart, our minds.
Everything you’re about to hear in the podcasttoday is of course through my lens, through my heart, through my mind, through my experiences and hopefully through the objectivity that I have grown up with.
So yes, I have been to Israel. I may not have told this story before, but I must tell it to you because, but for the grace of an intervention that was almost otherworldly. I would probably still be in Israel today.
It was a long time ago. It was 1979. I had just gotten my new Ph.D. I was in my late 30s with two children. I earned a very, very hard degree to earn at the University of California at Berkeley, a great research degree. But there were no jobs, you see, for white males, especially Jewish white males in fields that were innovative at the time. And so I had been in correspondence with a famous professor in Israel, who was the Chancellor of Hebrew University, and a great scientist.
And he said, “If you come to Israel I can give you a fellowship for two years.” So I packed up the family and we went to visit Israel. It was a big, big change in my life. I was going to leave California and live in Israel and be a research professor in the field of ethnomedicine.
I was going to work on ethnomedicine in the West Bank, with Arab folk healers. Would you believe this? This is really true. So we go to Israel and we’re all excited about it. I have a research position in Israel! My children were going to grow up in Israel!
My son was 8 or 9 years old. My daughter was a baby, 2 years old. My wife was going to start a health food business there. A few nights into living there, after meeting with the professor, I realized I needed to be alone to think about this. And so I walked around the streets of Jerusalem after a couple of beers alone in a couple of cafes.
And as I walked on the streets of Jerusalem, it must’ve been 2 or 3 in the morning, a strange thing happened.
I heard my deceased father speak to me. He had been dead nine years, and here’s what he said to me. He said, “Michael, I was an immigrant to America. Do you want to make your children immigrants to a foreign country?”
The next day I packed up my bags and went back to America. That’s how things work in my life.
In today’s podcast I will continue with my very personal perspective on what is going on in Israel and Gaza right now.