Friday, February 18, 2011

Bye Babe

The story of Naomi and a Parrot

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Leight on Light

On December 14th, Foreign Policy published an article Let There be Light by Charles Kenney which discussed the advances in the developed world in regards to the lightbulb and compared it to the lack of access to electricity grids and energy in the developing world.

There are many development initiatives throughout the developing world to improve access to clean water, healthy and nutrient rich foods, malarial drugs, mosquito nets, education for children and women, HIV-prevention and antiretroviral drugs. However, to my knowledge (I haven't done any googling on this subject), there has not been a larger movement to provide light in an efficient, environmentally friendly and accessible way.

A great public diplomacy initiative--that could be a public-private partnership between governments, NGOs and the corporate sector--could be "light accessibility". The above article mentioned that children in India did better in school when they had access to light because it provided more time to study. The public-private campaign could focus on education -- Light for Learning, and wherever educational training is offered by governments (or UN programs) to local teachers, NGOs could fund-raise with corporate sponsorship (CSR or globe engagement projects) to provide light to children outside of the classroom.  These partner corporations, some of which must be in the electricity/LED/solar technology businesses could sponsor/fundraise with the NGOs in order to provide the newest light technology LED lightbulbs powered by batteries, recharged by the sun to each child (and in turn families). This would not only provide much needed access to more energy efficient, cost saving, environmentally friendly light products, but also facilitate the education of young children who with better education have future opportunities and more access to help their family and country.

Education is the key to a better future for all people, sustainable development is essential for a healthier planet, mix the two goals together, and voila, Light for Learning. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On Coincidence

People are always shocked or freaked out by coincidence. Some chalk it up to the random workings of the universe, some believe in fate, some don't take notice at all. Today, I am enjoying a quote from Albert Einstein on those random incidents that make the world and people just a little more interconnected.

Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous
 Enjoy the little surprises and coincidences, maybe they mean something after all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The World on the Bus: Public Diplomacy for the Public Transit System

As a Washingtonian Jersey Girl transplanted to Los Angeles, I try to keep myself sane by using public transportation. Although public transportation in LA is harder to use, less efficient, unreliable and slower than every city I have ever had the pleasure of using public transportation in around the globe (est. 25), it generally feels the same as any where else. Tonight, I did not expect thee bus ride home from work to be any different than usual, but it indeed was. 

This gray evening, the bus was crowded and I chose to stand reading the Economist near the back exit to allow those whose jobs are physically demanding space to sit. An older hispanic man came onto the bus and gestured for me to take an empty seat, his eyes told me that I should, so I graciously accepted. A stop later, he sat next to me and started speaking to me in Spanish, but with an accent that was difficult for me to understand. After a few attempts at communication, I finally understood what he was saying:

"The whole world rides on the bus, God is everywhere"

He pointed to the Economist and recommended that instead of reading the news, which discusses much of the worlds' hardships, I should read the Bible. He asked if I know the Bible, and I replied "mas o menos" (more or less). He suggested that I read it for 30 minutes before I go to sleep at night. I explained that I needed to read the news to know what is happening in the world. He just shook his head, smiled warmly and said, that "God is great" and that there is only one God. I agreed with him whole heartedly. 

שמע ישראל ה' אלוכנו ה' אחד - Hear O' Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One

This surprising conversation got the public diplomacy ideas flowing.  The whole world rides on the bus, I looked around me, people speaking multiple languages, different lives, religions, dreams, careers and stories. Everywhere around the world, people ride the bus. I would recommend two initiatives to encourage understanding between culture through bus rides. To call on bus commuters to make short videos about their bus rides. What is your bus story? What is your bus world like? Collect videos from everywhere in the world and create a video documentary of "The World on the Bus". This documentary could clearly illustrate through shared culture and values how everywhere in the world, people can relate to each other on buses. The documentary could be launched on a new international day which suggests that every commuter try to ride the bus to show how people around the world may be different in numerous ways, but can also be the same. The whole world on the bus. 

A UNique Plan for Israel & Palestine

I am not one to advocate for an imposed settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor am I a huge fan of the United Nations when it comes to Israel, however, I am interested in the idea put forth by Robert Wright, today, in a NYT Opinion piece

Wright advocates that a plan can be imposed on both Israelis and Palestinians:

The United Nations created a Jewish state six decades ago, and it can create a Palestinian state now. It can define the borders, set the timetable and lay down the rules for Palestinian elections (specifying, for example, that the winners must swear allegiance to a constitution that acknowledges Israel’s right to exist)....  

By comparison, a United Nations solution looks Israel-friendly. Borders could be drawn to accommodate some of the thickest Israeli settlements along the 1967 lines (while giving the new Palestinian state land in exchange). But perhaps the biggest advantage is the political cover this approach would give President Obama.

Sure, he’d have to endure some noise from America’s Israel lobby. But at least he’d have to put on his noise-canceling headphones only twice: (1) when he agreed to explore this path with other members of the “quartet” — the European UnionRussia, the United Nations; (2) when the quartet, having produced a plan, handed it to the Security Council, at which point America would vote for it, or at least not veto it. 

I would argue that this is an interesting path to advocate for BUT that the Israeli and Palestinian publics MUST buy-in to this plan. The governments must agree as well, as the consequences could also result in disaster. 

Hope to continue to write more on this topic and think a bit more critically about this proposal.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WikiLeaks Playlist

So WikiLeaks are taking over my life, but to make it more enjoyable, Huffington Post Blogger, David Wild has provided the public with a fabulous soundtrack. 

THE LOST ART OF KEEPING A SECRET - Queens of the Stone Age
HEY WIKI - The Magical Wombat
SPIES - Coldplay
SECRET GARDEN - Bruce Springsteen
IN MY SECRET LIFE - Leonard Cohen
DIRTY LITTLE SECRET - All-American Rejects
TRUTH - Amos Lee
MYSTERY TRAIN - Elvis Presley
SECRET WORLD - Peter Gabriel
TELL ME A SECRET - Ludacris & Ne-Yo
I SPY - Guster
SECRET - Madonna
SOMETHING STUPID - The Secret Sisters
SECRET - Spanic Boys
YOUR LITTLE SECRET - Melissa Etheridge
SECRET MESSAGES - Electric Light Orchestra

Thank you David. For the full post, click here.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Support Houses of Worship for All

I'm not one to beat a dead horse, but I really wanted to share this article from Jonathan D. Sarna, titled, When Shuls were Banned in America. Please take a moment to read the article and share with your friends and families.

When New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood on Governors Island, in sight of the Statue of Liberty, and forcefully defended the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, he expressly made a point of distancing himself from an earlier leader of the city: Peter Stuyvesant, who understood the relationship between religion and state altogether differently than Bloomberg does.
As governor of what was then called New Amsterdam, from 1647-1664, Stuyvesant worked to enforce Calvinist orthodoxy. He objected to public worship for Lutherans, fought Catholicism and threatened those who harbored Quakers with fines and imprisonment. One might easily imagine how he would have treated Muslims.

When Jewish refugees arrived in his city, in 1654, Stuyvesant was determined to bar them completely. Jews, he complained, were “deceitful,” “very repugnant” and “hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ.” He wanted them sent elsewhere.
Stuyvesant’s superiors in Holland overruled him, citing economic and political considerations. He continued, however, to restrict Jews to the practice of their religion “in all quietness” and “within their houses.” Being as suspicious of all Jews as some today are of all Muslims, he never allowed them to build a synagogue of their own.
In 1685, with the British in control of the city, 20 Jewish families petitioned to change Stuyvesant’s precedent so that they might establish a synagogue and worship in public. They were curtly refused. “Publique worship,” New York City’s Common Council informed them, “is Tolerated… but to those that professe faith in Christ.”
Eventually, around the turn of the 18th century, Jews in New York won the right to worship in public, and Congregation Shearith Israel opened America’s first synagogue. Subsequently, in Rhode Island, what is today known as the Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue building still extant in North America, was dedicated in Newport in 1763.
Elsewhere Jews were not so fortunate.
In Connecticut, for example, statutes limited the right of religious incorporation to Christians long after the Bill of Rights mandated religious liberty for all on the federal level. It took a special act of the state legislature, in 1843, to ensure that “Jews who may desire to unite and form religious societies shall have the same rights, powers and privileges as are given to Christians of every denomination.” Thanks to this act, Congregation Mishkan Israel opened in New Haven that year; it was only the second synagogue in all of New England.
The New Haven Register viewed the synagogue as a public defeat for Christendom. “The Jews…,” the paper thundered, “have outflanked us here, and effected a footing in the very centre of our own fortress. Strange as it may sound, it is nevertheless true that a Jewish synagogue has been established in this city — and their place of worship (in Grand Street, over the store of Heller and Mandelbaum) was dedicated on Friday afternoon. Yale College divinity deserves a Court-martial for bad generalship.”
Jews continued to “outflank” Christians, owing to immigration, and by 1856 there were enough of them in the nation’s capital to consider opening a synagogue close to the very heart of the federal government. Questions arose, however, as to whether this was legal under the District of Columbia’s Religious Corporation Act. Some contended that only Christian churches could acquire real estate in Washington for public worship, not Jews. In the end, it took an act of Congress to resolve the question. Signed by President Franklin Pierce on June 2, 1856, it established the principle “that all the rights, privileges and immunities heretofore granted by law to the Christian churches in the City of Washington be… extended to the Hebrew Congregation of said City.”
Long afterwards, however, and even down to our own times, synagogues have frequently faced fierce opposition when they attempt to build in locations that some would prefer to see devoid of Jewish religious institutions. In the 1950s, new suburban synagogues commonly had to face down angry neighbors and change-averse zoning boards when they applied for building permits. As recently as 1999, opponents of a new Orthodox synagogue seeking to build in New Rochelle, N.Y., warned residents that the planned structure would bring with it “rats,” “traffic” and “creeping commercialization.” The real fear, one opponent confessed to the Forward, was that “the identity of the neighborhood would change.”
Mayor Bloomberg likely had some of this history in mind when he asked “should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion?” In distancing himself from Peter Stuyvesant and the many others who have defined American religious liberty in narrowly restrictive terms, he reminds us that if today’s target is the mosque, yesterday’s was most assuredly the synagogue.
Jonathan D. Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Globalizing a Monarchy

Recently, Foreign Policy Magazine produced an article, title "God Save the Colonies" by Alex Massie. The article recommends that the U.S. adopt the British Royal Family as its own -- so that the President can be relieved of filling the diplomatic role of Head of State and the Monarchy would encourage unity among the people. While Massie recognizes the historical implications of this idea, he argues that the U.S. public is fascinated by the Monarchy anyway, so we might as well embrace it. I find this idea ridiculous but fascinating - we live in such an interconnected world that Americans are focused on a foreign country's monarchy and invested in their relationships just as much as any American celebrity couple or "king". The traditional isolated America spurning the idea of monarchy embracing it. However, I completely disagree that the U.S. should adopt a royal family in order to unite the country in a way that the President cannot because of bipartisanship. Our President, the most powerful official in the world, must be our diplomat-in-chief. However, I wouldn't disregard the notion of somehow changing our political system in a way to encourage political unity and change the current political discourse from two opposing parties to a more efficient and representative system -- without compromising the ability to pass legislation (or current lack there of). Maybe we should think Prime Minister, instead of Queen...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Just Listen

So about a week ago the blog The View from Israel posted a piece titled "The Time for Coordinated and Professional Israeli public diplomacy action is now". The post advocates for a 'Public Diplomacy Institute' comprising key players [all men and none from the left-movement] in Israeli advocacy and hasbara -- not a team I would consider adept at successful public diplomacy. The short of it is that I wanted to comment on the blog post, but the comments are moderated by the blogger and he refused to post my comment. So, I'm taking the liberty to post it on my own blog. Here is my response:

While I agree that public diplomacy should be apolitical and a coordinated effort with a clear message, Israel is considered to have one of the most advanced public diplomacy strategies. From the strategic partnership with the U.S. Jewish Diaspora (both monetarily and politically) to being the first nation with a Twitter account and country blog, Israel has a well-oiled hasbara machine. Israel explains, however, what Israeli public diplomacy does not do is listen. Listening is the key component to an effective public diplomacy strategy. Instead of listening to the world, to her Arab neighbors, to her left-leaning public and to the Palestinians, Israel sticks her fingers in her ears and continues to explain without success. In order for Israel's public diplomacy to succeed, more than anything, she needs to start listening.
-Naomi hold a Master of Public Diplomacy from the University of Southern California 

Normally, it wouldn't irk me so much that my comments were not heard but Israel is of great concern to me. Being heard, especially as a left-leaning American Jew -- as a part of a group that does not always stand up and advocate for a better Israel because of the fear of being ostracized from the Jewish community -- and as a strong believer in the state of Israel and the future state of Palestine, I couldn't stay silent. All I am asking is for Israel and its diplomatiya tziboori [דיפלומטיה ציבורי - new public diplomacy] apparatus to start listening.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

May It Be So...כן יהיה רצון

It is not often that I am moved to think about prayer or truly feel other peoples prayers are meaningful enough for me to "re-pray" them (say an Ah'mehyn...Amen in English). However, President Clinton's Op-Ed in The New York Times moved me to take that action -- not just an amen but more of a "make it so".

“Enough of blood and tears. Enough. We have no desire for revenge. We harbor no hatred toward you. We, like you, are people — people who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, to live side by side with you in dignity, in empathy, as human beings, as free men. We are today giving peace a chance, and saying again to you, enough. Let us pray that a day will come when we all will say, ‘Farewell to the arms.’” - Yitzhak Rabin, 1993

"Let us pray on this anniversary that his service and sacrifice will be redeemed in the Holy Land and that all of us, wherever we live, whatever our capacity, will do our part to build a world where cooperation triumphs over conflict. Rabin’s spirit continues to light the path, but we must all decide to take it." - President Bill Clinton, 2010

Rabin's words ring true, but should not be taken in their original context, a message directed solely at the Palestinian people--but a message directed at both Palestinians and Israelis and to all people invested in seeing peace in Israel and Palestine, no matter what nationality.

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they study war anymore
לא ישעה גוי אל גוי חרב לא ימדעו עוד מלחמה
- The Book of Isaiah, 2:2