I Attended the Women’s March on Saturday

The ability to publicly demonstrate and tell our elected leaders what is on our minds is baked into the very concept of democracy.

Last Saturday was the Women’s March in New York City. Held at Foley Square in lower Manhattan, attendees were there to make sure that our voices were heard.

Though the main topic was abortion, it was about the fact that in the United States, women and girls are still second-class citizens.

Before the speakers began, there was a recognition of Mahsa Amini and the figurehead that she has become. Not just in Iran, but all over the world.

The fact is that this has been an ongoing struggle for a very long time. While I was there, I could feel my foremothers standing behind me. Those of us who are alive today both stand on their giant shoulders and walk on the path they started.

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Reasons to Fight For Democracy: The Mass Graves in Ukraine and the Murder of Mahsa Amini

It’s easy to get discouraged about the state of democracy these days. But what we have to remember is that it is worth fighting for.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has been going on since the winter. In the liberated city of Izium, mass graves were discovered. So far, the number of bodies is over 400. Many of those killed were civilians and children.

Warning: the images may be distressing.

If this discovery is not enough to the world that Putin must be stopped and forced to stand trial, I don’t know what is. Unless we make it clear that this type of action is unacceptable, it will happen again.

In Iran, Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman, was killed by the morality police. Her crime was supposedly an issue with her headscarf. Since 1979, it has been compulsatory. As a result, protests have broken out. Many women have cut their hair and refused to wear the hijab in response to Amini’s death.

Religion of any kind is all well and good. But when the majority forces their beliefs on the minority and believes that one gender is superior or inferior to another, that is a problem we cannot ignore. If we do, it is at our own peril.

May Mahsa Amini’s memory and the memories of those murdered by Russia since the beginning of the war be a blessing. Z”L.

This Latest Round of The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict is Starting to Scare Me

As a third generation American Jew, I’ve grown up in the safety and security of the United States. I’ve always known that antisemitism exists, but it has hit me in the face this week with the latest round of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

For the first time in a long time, I am scared.

I am scared that there are too many in this world who believe the lies that Hamas (and Iran by extension tells the world). Human rights are universal and always important, but they can also be twisted to fit one’s perspective.

I am scared that some of my Jewish brothers and sisters are falling for the falsehoods that could kill them. Across the United States, Jews have been attacked by pro-Palestinian mobs. In Los Angeles, a mob screamed at customers and threw glass bottles as they eat outside a restaurant. I am all for peace, but how does one make peace with a neighbor who constantly agitates for your death?

I am scared that the Israel I know and love will cease to exist. Not just due to the violence within the region, but due to the silence and the complicity (again) by the outside world. I am scared that both Palestinian and Israeli children will grow up not only psychologically damaged, but also unable to see past the fears and hatred that they were taught by the adults around them.

If you listen to only one thing today, listen to last week’s episode from the podcast Us Among the Israelis. I cannot imagine what it is like to not be able to function normally, not knowing when a rocket may fall on your home or place of business. It’s akin to living during the Blitz. But instead of this happening during a specific time in history, it becomes a common occurance.

I am a Jew and proud of it. I have yet to move away from my faith and will likely never. But that does not mean that it scares the shit out of me.

I’m Writing You from Tehran: A Granddaughter’s Search for Her Family’s Past and Their Country’s Future Book Review

I don’t know about anyone else, but as the descendant of immigrants, there is a part of me that longs to know about the world my family knew before they came to the United States. But with no one alive to share those stories and that world long gone, it can be seen through documents and the work of fiction.

French-Iranian journalist Delphine Minoui does not need to jump through such hoops. The only thing she needs to do is buy a plane ticket.

Her new book, I’m Writing You from Tehran: A Granddaughter’s Search for Her Family’s Past and Their Country’s Future was published in the spring.

Translated by Emma Ramadan, the book is a memoir of the ten years that she lived in Iran. In the late 1990s, she was in her twenties and brand new to the world of journalism. She was also mourning for her recently passed grandfather. Her stay in Tehran was supposed to be a short ten-day trip. It eventually turned into a decade long residency.

During the course of that decade, Minoui doesn’t just live in Tehran. As her journalistic instincts kick in, she experiences everything the city and the country offer at that time. By the time she leaves Iran, she has grown in ways she could not have imagined

I really liked this book. It shows that Iran is much more than it is perceived to be in the headlines. Which frankly, sometimes don’t tell the whole story. Each chapter is a letter to her grandfather, describing in vivid detail what day to day life was like for Minoui.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Israel/UAE Deal is a Good First Step

In our modern world, the nearly century long conflict with Israel and her neighbors (and Palestine specifically) is just another part of the news cycle.

Earlier this week, Israel reached what many have described as a historic deal with the UAE.

I believe that this deal is a good one and a necessary step toward a reasonable peace in the region.

That being said, I am not surprised about the responses. Both Iran and the Palestinians are displeased, to say the least. You know who thinks that he actually solved the problem as a whole. While this is a positive step in the right direction, it will not create a peaceful utopia. There is still a long way to go.

I am also not sure that temporarily stopping the so called “West Bank Settlements” will create the necessary change. Though this another topic for another blog post, when Israel goes back to building what is essentially Israeli land, she will be met with the same criticism and damnation. But in the meantime, putting the settlements on hold is imperative.

But overall, my gut reaction is that the agreement is one to celebrate. Only when we put aside our prejudices can we see the common goals that exist between us. By putting hate aside, both Israel and the UAE are demonstrating that it is possible to live with your neighbor. It just requires the ability to listen and compromise.

The Ultimate Social Media Hypocrisy: Iran, Twitter, & Israel

When the Internet and social media took off decades ago, they both seemed to be a beacon of freedom of speech and communication. We would speak to and (virtually) meet people who we might otherwise not meet and become a better world.

But while the technology has changed, the world has not.

While the social media giants claim that they are all for freedom of expression, they continue to ignore the elephant in the room. That elephant is racism and antisemitism that continually flows from various tweets and posts.

Twitter, while claiming that hate speech is not allowed on the platform, does not prevent Iranian officials from threatening Israel with annihilation via tweets.

I wish it was easy to remove ourselves from social media. But, they are so much of a part of lives that to do so would be akin to cutting off a limb. The only solution is that the people who run the social media platforms follow through on their terms of service. The question is, will they?

Probably not.

The Stationery Shop Book Review

In our world and our culture, the idea of young love is put on a pedestal, especially when it is enveloped in the idea of class or political warfare. The question is, can this young love overcome the challenges?

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali was published a few weeks ago.

The book is set in two periods: Iran in the early 1950’s and New England in 2013. In the early 1950’s Iran is torn between the past and the present, between democracy and a religious autocracy. In this world our lovers, Roya and Bahman meet for the first time. They are young, passionate and eager to begin their lives as a married couple. But on the day that they are to say their vows, Bahman disappears.

When it becomes obvious that Bahman is not coming back, Roya moves to America and a new life. Decades later, a twist of fate brings Bahman and Roya back together. After sixty years, she still is still asking why he abandoned her.

I know that it’s only February, but this is one of the best books of the year. Using a narrative baseline of Romeo and Juliet and mixing in Iranian history with class politics, the author is able to weave together a story of young love that stands the test of time.

I absolutely recommend it.

Don’t Blame the US for the Plane Crash in Iran

The conflict between the United States and Iran goes back decades.

The latest addition to this conflict is the plane crash that killed 176 people just minutes after the plane took off from the airport last Wednesday. After going back and forth, the Iranian government took responsibility for shooting down the plane, killing everyone aboard.

However, while accepting that his people were responsible for the crash and the unnecessary loss of life, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif  stated the following:

“Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster,”

The loss of 176 people is heartbreaking. I can only imagine the grief that the loved ones of those who were on the plane are feeling.

The fact that Iran finally fessed up should not have taken as many days as it did. However, what bothers me more is that they are quick to blame the United States for the crash. Granted, the US Government has not always made the wisest decisions when dealing with Iran. However, in this case, the United States is blameless. The blood and loss of life is firmly on the hands of Iran.

May the memories of those on the plane be a blessing and a reminder of the cost of war.

Will the Killing of Qasem Soleimani Start World War III?

For some, an eye for an eye begets justice. For others, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

Last night, the news flashed around the world that Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds military force was killed by a US airstrike in Baghdad.

I would love to shout and cheer that the big bad is dead. Our world can finally be at peace.

The truth is that I cannot. Though it is without a doubt that this man and the forces he led did some truly heinous acts, I fear that this assassination will start World War III.

Adding to the mess is our so-called President, who used the excuse of so-called “bone spurs” to get out of serving in Vietnam. He never served in the military (which is not entirely a bad thing). That being said, it would behoove him and us to listen to those who have served in the military. He is akin to a little boy playing with his plastic soldiers. The problem with that is that he is not playing with six-inch plastic toys, he is playing with people’s lives.

Only time will tell if World War III starts or this is just another scuffle. No matter the outcome, yesterday’s actions make me more than a little nervous.

Thoughts On Purim 2019

I’m not particularly religious, but as I get older, I realize that the stories in the Bible can still speak to us many generations after they were written.

Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim. It is the story of Esther. To make a long story short, Esther hides her Jewish identity while entered in a beauty contest to see who will become the next Queen of Shushan (modern-day Iran). When she is chosen to be the next Queen, she is faced with an impossible task: save her people from Haman’s wrath while risking her own life in the process.

Looking at the story of Purim through the lens of 2019, I feel like it still speaks to us. It speaks to us because of the growing intolerance that has become acceptable once more in our world.

It also speaks to us because Esther and her predecessor, Vashti, are also two of the strongest women in the Bible. When the King calls for Vashti to appear for all of his guests wearing only her crown (aka walking into a room full of strange, drunk men in her birthday suit), she says no and is sent away. This opens the door for Esther to become Queen and using what little power she has to stop Haman. Esther knows that her husband could easily send her away, or worse, send her to the executioner. But she is brave and knows that the only way to save herself and her people is to reveal who she really is.

The message I get from Purim is that it is possible to be ourselves and stand up to intolerance and hatred. We only need the guts to do so.

 

 

 

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